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Irakere 40 playin' like a hurricane at Ronnie Scott's!

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Wednesday July 22, 2015

From The Guardian

Chucho Valdes/Irakere review – a Cuban hurricane of brass and bata

Irakere may be Grammy-winning legends of Cuban music, but they don’t bring on genial gents in white flat caps just to sing serenades of old Havana. Now celebrating their 40th anniversary under the brilliant pianist Chucho Valdes’s continuing leadership, Irakere are a hurricane where the Buena Vistas were a summer breeze. They launched a week’s residency at Ronnie Scott’s club on Monday with the elated parade of big-band jazz, funk, rock, classical music, and African-rooted ritual percussion and vocals that have been their trademark from the start.

The current 10-piece edition look young enough to be Valdes’s children, or even grandchildren. A five-strong brass and reeds section wail and snap over the tumult from a booming bass, the matchless leader at the piano and three drummers.

Bata-player Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé opened with quietly tuneful patterns that quickly doubled in speed, were picked up by hand-drums, shakers and Rodney Barreto’s kit, then became a medium groove with a spirited Afro-Cuban vocal chant, and stopped on an admonishing shout.

A sensuous bolero drew a lissom flugelhorn solo from Reinaldo Melián, shadowed by a blend of glittering treble runs and throbbing low chord-vamps from Valdes. A traffic-jam clamour of brass riffs swept in behind Bombalé’s vocal on its harmonically more dissonant successor – which began to sound increasingly like 60s modal jazz with Ariel Bringuez’s somewhat Wayne Shorter-like tenor sax break, and the almost free-improvisational stream of piano lines that followed it.

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