Irakere / Chucho Valdés


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The sudden breakout of Chucho Valdés as a solo artist in North America in 1998 was no doubt the leverage behind the new billing of his band, "Irakere featuring Chucho Valdés," and the large amount of exposure that his piano fireworks get here. The band sometimes doesn't sound all that electrified by the prospect, though ultimately they do take us on a wide-ranging tour of acoustic and electric Latin jazz idioms and grooves. "Mister Bruce" most emphatically features the leader, a tour de force for Valdes who unleashes a torrent of notes (not always coherently) over percussion, bass and drums. "Santa Amalia" is straight ahead Latin jazz with lots of Valdes, hot horn solos and a flourish of vocals at the close, yet for all of its 13 minutes, it doesn't totally ignite. "La Explosión," with quotes from "Love for Sale" near the end, presents a multi-sectioned serpent of funk, bop and mambo -- nothing really fused since the grooves appear in sections -- while "San Francisco" is a fine, barely updated Latin boogaloo. "Son Montuno," which also appears on Valdes' Bele Bele en la Habana solo album, is blown open by some rough rock guitar, the old freewheeling Irakere spirit at work. Though Yemayá has its big moments, Valdés seems to have saved his most heated inspirations of the late '90s for his own solo work.

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