December 28, 2018


Chucho Valdes Toasts a Lineage As Well as a Heritage with His New Album, 'Jazz Bata 2' (NATE CHINEN • SEP 20, 2018, WBGO)

[C]hucho Valdés is about to release a new album, Jazz Batá 2, that burnishes his stature as a towering Afro-Cuban pianist of our time, while reclaiming a meaningful chapter from his past. The album is due out  Nov. 16 on Mack Avenue Records, which has shared one track here as an exclusive premiere: "100 Años de Bebo," or "100 Years of Bebo," featuring violinist Regina Carter.

The song's title is a nod to Bebo Valdés's centenary, which falls on Oct. 9. (Chucho has the same birthday; he'll be turning 78.) A danzón-mambo with a lilting melody exquisitely played by Carter, it's a composition that holds sentimental associations.

"No one's heard this tune," Valdés says in a press release. "I'm the only person who knows it. When I was a child, Bebo played it on the piano at home. Just a tune, very beautiful, and as many times as he played it, it always captured my attention. I don't believe he ever recorded it. Since it's his centenary, I added an introduction, I put a tumbao at the end, and recorded it." (Don't miss the delirious "laughing" effect that Carter plays at the onset of the tumbao, just after the three-minute mark -- and stay put for her marvelous solo, which leads to a show of mastery by Valdés.)

Apart from Carter, a guest who also graces a radiant track titled "Ochún," the supporting personnel on Jazz Batá 2 consists strictly of musicians from the Guantánamo region of Cuba: longtime Valdés associate Yaroldy Abreu Robles on percussion; Yelsy Heredia on bass; and Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé on batá drums and vocals.

As the title implies, Jazz Batá 2 is also a sequel -- to Jazz Batá, an album that Valdés released in 1972, for the Cuban label Egrem. A forward-thinking experiment in cultural convergence, that album paired modern jazz piano with the earthy thrum of the batá, an hourglass-shaped drum adapted from Yoruban religious practice. The percussionist on the album was Oscar Valdés (no relation), and the bassist was Carlos del Puerto. Both became founding members of Irakere, whose explosive success eclipsed the acoustic sound of Jazz Batá, rendering it a kind of curio.

Posted by at December 28, 2018 7:51 AM