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Chucho Valdés Forges American Connections

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Friday June 01, 2018

From The Post and Courier

Review: Chucho Valdes forges American connections
By: Leah M Suarez

Somebody better check the roof at the the Gaillard Center. A giant of a man left his mark. Pianist Chucho Valdés and his mighty quartet executed flawlessly, bringing a welcomed vitality to this year’s Spoleto jazz series for its pinnacle jazz performance. The hall’s energy was palpable as the Cuban-born, Grammy Award-winning bandleader took to the stage, sporting his backwards-facing, classic Kangol cap. Valdés took his seat at a piano that seemed dwarfed by his presence.

Before anyone could blink, two hours had passed. Valdes’s intoxicating set was a contemporary amalgamation of genres, yielding a visceral journey through “American” music. The free-flowing performance felt more like a two-hour dance, with recognizable melodies and riffs from standard jazz, blues, gospel and classical repertoire, marvelously coalescing with the ensemble’s sophisticated harmonies and rhythm, all of it rooted in the Latin tradition, especially Afro-Cuban.

Combined, the quartet was a ceremonious polyrhythmic force that made way for breathtaking moments of individual luster. While Valdés was unmistakably the captain of this musical vessel, bassist Yelsy Heredia was second in command. His physical energy, rhythmic sensibility, and vocal expression was enthralling. Percussionist Yaroldy Abreu Robles and drummer Dafnis Prieto made for a well-oiled machine with their precision, musicality and expansive use of battery.

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