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In concert: Chucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers at the Warner Theatre

chucho valdesChucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers brought their beautifully crafted Latin jazz to the Warner Theatre on Saturday. (Juana Arias/FTWP)

By John Murph

Delivering invigorating Latin jazz was only part of pianist Chucho Valdés's agenda Saturday night at the Warner Theatre; he also affirmed alliances between various Afro-Cuban idioms and several American jazz legacies. Because visa restrictions had prevented Valdés from performing in the United States for the past seven years, his mission seemed all the more crucial.

To accomplish such diplomacy, Valdés and his Afro-Cuban Messengers focused mostly on music from his new disc, "Chucho's Steps," which laid out blueprints for his lofty goals. Whether on swooning ballads such as "Begin to Be Good" or blistering John Coltrane-esque exploits such as "Chucho Steps," all the musicians played with ferocity and precision. Still, it was 69-year-old Valdés who displayed the most galvanizing virtuosity as he repeatedly unraveled prolix solos, marked by jolting harmonies and anchoring montuno patterns.

chucho valdes

Still, some cultural-exchange attempts were more successful than others. While a fine showcase for Carlos Miyares Hernandez's raspy tenor saxophone, the transitions between post-bop balladry and danzón in "Danzón" were jarring. And the funky rumba tribute to the Marsalis family on "New Orleans" was more edifying than satisfying.

More gratifying was "Zawinul Mambo," Valdés's flinty homage to composer Josef Zawinul, on which drummer Juan Carlos Rojas Castro and percussionists Yaroldy Abreu Robles and Dreiser Durruthy Bambolé pounded out a percussive showdown. When the concert concentrated more on Afro-Cuban music, as on "Changó" and the encore "Los Caminos," both graced by Bambolé enchanting bata drum polyrhythms and sacred chanting to various Afro-Latin orishas, Valdés's goodwill was at its most persuasive.

chucho valdes

chucho valdes

chucho valdes

chucho valdes

By Click Track  | November 1, 2010; 11:14 AM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags:  Chucho Valdes  
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