Chucho Valdes: New Conceptions (2003)
The album title is misleading. It is more than about time for the immensely talented Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes to come up with a wholly new musical concept for an album, particularly since he has been repeating the "Tyner-meets-Tatum in Havana" mode for many years. What sounds freshest here are polyrhythmic workouts with drummers Yaroldy Abreau Robles and Ramses Rodriguez Baralt on original Valdes tunes synthesizing Afro-Cuban religious drum rhythms with waves of thunderous piano riffs by Valdes. What sounds lackluster are his attempt to Cubanize Ellington, and what major jazz composer less needs Latinizing when he knew how to add Latin flavors himself?
A particularly thoughtless version of the standard "You Don't Know What Love Is," played with a gut-busting fortissimo, shows Valdes might never have considered what the original song lyrics meant. Valdes loves pounding melodrama a bit too often for my taste, and his penchant for playing thirty notes when twelve might do wears thin quickly. A fresh new concept would be a solo album of restrained ballads, something with no "pedal to metal" – literally, or metaphorically.
Track Listing: 1. La Comparsa, 2. You Don't Know What Love Is, 3. Los Guiros, 4. Nanu, 5. Solar, 6. Sin Clave Pero Con Swing, 7. Homenaje A Ellington
Personnel: Chuco Valdes, Yaroldy Abreau Robles, Lazaro Rivero Alarcon, Ramses Rodriguez Baralt