Chucho Valdés Thrills Montreal
Posted 7/2/2013

It had been seven years since the great Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés had performed at Le Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. And judging from the whoops, hollers and multiple standing ovations at Théâtre Maisonneuve on June 28, the audience did not want him to leave again.

The pianist came to Canada with a fiery new edition of his Afro-Cuban Messengers touring in advance of the July 9 release of his album Border-Free (Jazz Village), which was largely inspired by the ritual rhythms of the Orishas, deities of the Afro-Cuban Santerîa religion.

As a result, this edition of the Messengers featured percussion, percussion and more percussion. Valdés is one of the most gifted pianists to ever walk the planet. At 71, he is at one with his instrument, supplying just the right touch and unmatched technique for the evening’s festivities. His Messengers include the gifted young bassist Ángel Gastón Joya Perellada; Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé, an energetic, highly entertaining singer and percussionist (especially on the batás, considered sacred Santería drums); Rodney Barreto Yllarza on drums; and Yaroldy Abreu Robles on percussion.

Much of the set featured textured, driving beats with highly charged polyrhythms and the supple touch of Valdés. His playing served as melodic point-and-counterpoint against the percussive power of the rhythm section on tunes like “Congadanza,” “Afro-Comanche” and “Abdel.” But Valdés took moments to go beyond the folkloric aspects, as he did on “Caridad Amaro,” a beautiful ballad that provided one of several stunning solos by Joya Perellada.

Valdés and company will be touring the United States next month, with shows in Stanford, Calif. (Aug. 10), Houston (Aug. 13) and Los Angeles (Aug. 14). Tour dates for the East Coast will be announced soon. This is a show not to be missed.

Frank Alkyer


Chucho Valdés on June 28 (Photo: © Festival International de Jazz de Montréal-Ulysse Lemerise-Bouchard)

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