Chuchito Valdés, Jr.

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Cuba-born pianist/composer Jesus "Chuchito" Valdes Jr. signifies the third generation of family pianists (his grandfather is Bebo Valdes and his father is Chucho Valdes). With this solo effort, Chuchito's classical training shines forth in radiant fashion amid his Afro-Cuban influences and extensive jazz vernacular. This multi-faceted production features Australia-born saxophonist Laskar Reese among a strong supporting cast of Latin jazz veterans. Here, Valdes Jr. demonstrates his often awe-inspiring technical faculties, as the band pursues traditional, hybrid Afro-Cuban/jazz-based arrangements. Yet, the pianist tosses a bit of convention to the wayside, thanks to his keenly enacted improvisational spin on Duke Ellington's "Take the 'A' Train," aptly titled "Impressions of 'Take the A Train.'" The band furthers this notion on John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," where tenor saxophonist Laskar Reese solos atop the rhythm section's upfront pulse and odd-metered backbeats. Moreover, Valdes Jr. is most effective at reworking melodies and themes into briskly swinging motifs, augmented by lightning-fast arpeggios and rhythmically inclined block chords. Recommended.

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