Chucho Valdés & the Afro-Cuban Messengers – Border-Free – Jazz Village JV 570016 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
Chucho Valdés, piano; Reinaldo Melian Alvarez, trumpet; Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé, batas & lead vocals; Rodney Barreto Illarza, drums & vocals; Angel Gaston Joya Perellada, doublebass & vocals; Yaroldy Abreu Robles, percussion & vocals; guest: Branford Marsalis, sax on 3 tracks)
Piano Masters Series Vol. 4 (Brazil) – Jovino Santos Neto, solo piano – Adventure Music AM1073 2 *****:
Valdés is Cuba’s foremost jazz pianist and has won five GRAMMYs and three Latin GRAMMYs. His new band ranges thru a wide variety of music – not at all what you might expect from a Cuban jazz pianist. Music of the native Americans as well as Arabic-Andalusian culture is heavily featured, and Valdés even appears on the cover in an Indian headdress. The session also includes the influence of Cuban big bands, some hard bop, classical, African drums, and some of the type of works Valdés’ previous Cuban jazz ensemble Irakere played.
Cuban composer Leo Brouwer, who wrote some of the booklet notes, says that every Valdés album “is a collection of ‘Cubanisms,’ of clashes of inspiration and of opposite ideas united.” The classical bits come in on the tunes “Pilar,” which includes some Bach since Valdés’ mother used to like Bach, and “Caridad Amaro,” which has some of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 because his grandmother liked that. There’s also a flamenco melody and on the penultimate track, “Conga-Danza,” a tribute to the sister of Ernesto Lecuona. The session showcases some great percussionists and Branford Marsalis’ tenor and soprano saxes add much to the three tunes on which he collaborates.
TrackList:1. Congadanza 2. Caridad Amaro 3. Tabu 4. Bebo 5. Afro-Comanche 6. Pilar 7. Santa Cruz
We’ve reviewed volumes 2 & 3 of Adventure Music’s Piano Masters series. Brazilian Jovino Santos Neto has been a Latin GRAMMY nominee three times. We have also reviewed his widely-acclaimed See the Sound double-CD, in which he was joined by 20 other musicians.
The big attraction of the label’s Piano Masters series is that all the performances are recorded (using high-tech gear) at the piano-filled Fazioli Piano Salon in New York City. The Italian Fazioli has become the piano of choice for many leading pianists, and its rich sound comes across in the recording, even though it is standard CD. Neto says he selected a piano that was then tuned and adjusted to his playing style, and over three evenings played whatever music flowed into his mind. He reports that he could feel the Fazioli changing its voice to fit his playing, as he explored the sound of the piano. The 20 tracks vary from quite short to six minutes length, and cover both his own compositions and free improvisations on standards such as “My Funny Valentine.”
TrackList:1. Blackbird 5:01 2. Semente (Seed) 1:21 3. Hoping for the Day 5:18 4. Crescendo (Growing) 1:43 5. All the Things You Are 5:11 6. Samba Triste (Sad Samba) 2:14 7. Surgindo (Sprouting) 1:28 8. Choro Bandito (Bandit Choro) 2:51 9. Do Solo (From the Earth) 1:38 10. Samba De Uma Nota So (One Note Samba) 3:34 11. Descanso (Rest) 2:09 12. Amanha (Tomorrow) 3:16 13. What Is This Thing Called Love? 2:41 14. Bebe (Baby) 6:08 15. Gosto (Flavor) 2:02 16. My Funny Valentine 4:46 17. Sempre (Always) 1:22 18. Na Batucada Da Vida (In the Drumming of Life) 3:33 19. Muito (Much) 1:52 20. Nem Um Talvez (Not Even a Maybe) 6:10 —John Henry