Chucho has revived the spirit and format of Irakere, 40 years past its founding. I heard them recently at Manhattan’s Town Hall (set list below for notetakers), and was struck by how current the band sounds. That’s because, in the true spirit of Cuban music and American jazz, Chucho never sits still, always leans forward.
(You can find a video of the group at the Lugano Jazz Festival here.)
As I wrote in my Wall Street Journal review of Chucho’s new CD, “Tribute to Irakere (Live in Marciac)”:
When pianist Chucho Valdés presented “Irakere 40” at Manhattan’s Town Hall earlier this month, he rekindled the sound of a band with which he changed the course of Cuban music four decades ago. Older audience members might have attended Irakere’s U.S. debut at Carnegie Hall during the 1978 Newport Jazz Festival. Appearing unannounced on a program that featured jazz pianists Mary Lou Williams, McCoy Tyner and Bill Evans, Irakere stole that show.
Then, Mr. Valdés introduced New Yorkers to a bold and subversive music, both a response to Cuba’s post-revolution rejection of American jazz and rock and a seed for Cuban dance music now known as timbá. His tight band with a huge sound expressed a sweep of influences that ranged from Afro Cuban folkloric music to bebop, from Mr. Valdés’ father, Bebo (a towering Cuban pianist and composer in his own right) to Blood, Sweat & Tears.
and as I point out:
With this project, Mr. Valdés neither takes a victory lap nor looks back. At 74, he remains a musician of restless and searching ambition….
Mr. Valdés call this album a tribute to Irakere. It sounds more like testimony to the continuity and vitality of a vision that has always spanned borders and genres, conflated centuries, defied politics and, by now, having influenced generations, is bigger than any one band.
Chucho Valdes Irakere 40 at Town Hall
Nov. 10, 2015