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Chuchito Valdes and His Trio Bring Havana to the Iridium
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Chuchito Valdes and His Trio Bring Havana to the Iridium

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Chuchito Valdes Trio
(Chuchito Valdes Web Page)

with
Chuchito Valdes on Piano
Carlos del Pino on Bass
Rafael Monteagudo on Drums

At
The Iridium
Scott Barbarino, Manager
Selby Ham, Director, Operations
1650 Broadway, Corner of 51st St, NYC
212.582.2121
www.theiridium.com

Press: Shorefire Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 25, 2011


Five years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Bebo Valdes, Cuban pianist and composer, and tonight I saw and heard his grandson, Chuchito Valdes, who had a one night performance at the Iridium, along with his drummer and bass player. I also have a fantastic recording by Chucho Valdes, Chuchito’s father, who completes this long line of Cuban piano artists. Naturally I was eager to immerse in the sultry Cuban rhythms amidst the sparkling acoustics at Iridium. Tonight I sat close, it was a Sunday, and the audience was enthused and energized. Chuchito not only sat at the Steinway, he stood up, walked around, and became a moving presence within the music, restless and intense. Yet, when the ballads were quiet and breathless, he played solos with trance-like focus, internalizing the themes and becoming as transported as his listeners, taking us from Broadway to Havana. The voyage was complete, when Carlos del Pino on bass and Rafael Monteagudo on drums took duo or solo turns, and Chuchito stretched onstage, focusing on his band. This trio had chemistry and charisma, with South of the Border luxuriousness.

The first piece began with melancholy sultriness and Cuban ornamentations, then melted into a cha-cha with jazzy tempos. Chuchito’s piano trills raced about as Rafael’s drums took on a contagious pulse. Carlos played his bass, a narrow wooden instrument, with one hand in hypnotic refrains. The second piece (there were no titles or cues from the stage) began with slow chords in rounded, vibrant clavé, and I wished we could break into a full-club mambo. We couldn’t, but Chuchito, then and there, stood and danced a bit while his band-members enjoyed the spotlight. When Rafael’s drums and Latin percussion were busy, Chuchito added chords that drove the rhythms. Soon the band went wild with propulsive combinations, as each musician took a leading riff. The sound and beat soon filled the club, as this ensemble of three was feeding off their respective improvisations.

Every time a piece would end with vivacious flourish, the next one would start with a soulful melody. In fact, the entire set was mainly melodic and elegant, not harsh, atonal, or searing. This was a microcosm of what inspires dreams of Havana. Chuchito opened the next piece softly singing to his meandering song. His first piano solo work was poignantly enchanting. Right on its heels, the next piece was combined Cuban musicality and jazz, right off the streets of Havana. Chuchito stood to lean over the Steinway, adding strength to his keyboard refrains. The music propelled itself like a percussive caravan, all the while drawing the audience into its motion. With contrast, Chuchito’s next solo was introspective, with each note hanging in air like a tropical raindrop. The music swayed with its own internal breezes, expanding its theme with poetic fascination. The early theme re-appeared and completed the song with quiet simplicity.

A brisk, accentuated mambo followed, with familiar refrains. The danceable, engaging tempos were beguiling. I did know the next piece, “Bésame Mucho”, and Carlos electrically infused it with scintillating bass effects. Chuchito played a heart-rending interpretation of the ballad, and Rafael’s brushes swished in circles on the drums. The sensual elements of this song became soulful. The final piece had the band going wild again, with a Carnivale motif. The drums exploded, the bass exuded pure string chords, and the piano carried the theme straight through. At one point, Chuchito seemingly tore up the treble keys, sending waterfalls of notes vigorously into the air. Something about this performance was serendipitous; this was a one-time experience, a spectacular event.



Carlos del Pino on Bass
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower



Chuchito Valdes on Piano
Carlos del Pino on Bass
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower



Chuchito Valdes on Piano
Carlos del Pino on Bass
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower



Rafael Monteagudo on Drums
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower



Chuchito Valdes on Piano
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower



Carlos del Pino on Bass
Rafael Monteagudo on Drums
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower



Chuchito Valdes Listens to Bass and Drums
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower



Chuchito Valdes at Leisure with
Selby Ham, Director of Operations, Iridium
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower



For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net