|Rebeca with Chucho Valdés|
The sell-out crowd at San Francisco's Herbst Theater was exuberant and giddy with anticipation, partly because our San Francisco Giants had just clinched their division and the smart-phone-crazy audience spontaneously erupted in applause even before the show began. Once Chucho and his band took the stage, we were in for a remarkable yet totally expected roller coaster ride of musical excellence. I say "expected" because with Chucho, we expect nothing less from a man who so truly has embodied the sound of Cuba for nearly half a century; he IS the absolute representation of what Cuban musicianship is all about. The product of classical training, the indelible influence of his father Bebo Valdés and a total command of American jazz, Chucho tore into a two-hour plus set of unimaginable depth and diversity and had people on the edge of their seats with his extraordinary Irakere-era pieces, newly transformed for smaller ensemble, along with his take on jazz standards combined with the African-infused textures of his homeland. From references to Brubeck, Ellington and Zawinul, Chucho demonstrated why he is regarded as one of the most compelling musicians of any generation as he paid tribute to these and other musical masters. And for those of us die-hard Irakere fans, we were treated to familiar repertoire in a different light, while we got to revel in the largely acoustic format of this smaller incarnation. In fact, the first several numbers featured Chucho and rhythm section only, minus any horns and vocals - a lovely way to start the program.
|Chucho with Giants Hall-of-Famer Orlando Cepeda|
Click here to read my recent review of Chucho's Steps in JazzTimes Magazine.