Monday, February 20, 2017

Afro-Cuban jazz under the banyan trees

Latin fire is in pianist Chuchito Valdés' genes. He's the son of Chucho Valdés and grandson of the late Bebo Valdés, two of Cuba's venerable jazz pianists.Though now based in Cancun, Mexico, he carries on the family tradition, much like his globetrotting father. 
Chuchito Valdes

Chuchito shared many elements of his Afro-Cuban jazz technique with a crowd beneath the majestic banyan trees at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota FL on Sunday, February 19.

Dimas Sanchez
He performed in a trio format with two Florida-based Latin jazz musicians. Tampa-based Mauricio Rodriguez, a fellow Cuban, was on electric bass. Orlando-based Dimas Sanchez, a native of Puerto Rico, was on drums.

Chuchito offered a wide range of material from fiery originals and languid ballads to sultry Cuban danzon (dance music), the Latin pop hit "Guantanamera" and a few American jazz standards - performed, of course, with Latin touches. The latter included a bit of Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train" and a thickly chorded exploration of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
Chuchito Valdes
Mauricio Rodriguez
The performance was as much about energy as it was about his sheer musicality. That energy was absorbed from and then re-shared with the audience. There were more than a few dazzling keyboard runs and at times he raised high  off his piano stool to accent his feverish playing. At others, he seemed to hug the electric keyboard when exploring delicate ballads. 

Rodriguez and Sanchez fit right into his groove, complementing it at every turn.
Chuchito Valdes, Mauricio Rodriguez, Dimas Sanchez

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