Many consider the ’01 honoree of the Heineken Jazzfest (HJ) as the most complete or even the best pianist in the world. Such titles commonly fall off the mark, albeit Jesús “Chucho” Valdés , who is most definitely part of the most awesome family trio of pianists of its kind, could very well be considered an unabashed virtuoso of the instrument and a deciding figure in the development of the instrument within and beyond jazz frontiers.
Valdés begins the recording with his elaboration upon “Comparsa,” a Classic composition by Ernesto Lecuona . This is a nice documentation of some of the most contemporary lines of inquiry Valdés is currently affianced into. Such forays within small groups give further prominence to an already dominant musical figure. The Chucho Valdés Quartet does some remarkable things in this cut.
Strunz and Farah go into South American territories with Spain strewn within. Elegantly peppy and likeable example of a group with increasing appeal within some Hispanic markets. The guitar and violin strings come across each other lean and mean.
Tania Maria and her Viva Brazil Quartet invite the listener to “Come With Me.” Percussive and funky, nasty and classy, popular, romantic, engaging, with high marks among prancing crowds.
The festival’s honoree and a surreptitious version of Irakere take “Giant Steps” into its own level of walking, climbing or running over the harmonic conceptions, the melodic elements and the infusion of Irakere’s characteristic stamp, hence providing a lighting fast rhythmic commendable reinterpretation of that tune.
Trumpeter Ray Vega is welcomed to the HJ family in this recording. “Flight to Jordan” is the medium of expression and it is performed with convicted hearts that can tighten themselves up in mutual support and engrossing dialogues that border on feisty felicity. Vega can jam it up!
Roberto Perera conjures flowing images of beautiful Iberian muses with olive skin engulfed in silky wrappings. The comfortable pace and melodic charge will slowly take you over and make you move, and move, and move... Pretty cool deal.
The noted “Perfume de Gardenias” reaches quite a high through Luis Marín’s Trio with congas added as a guest performing color. Marín tantalizes many salient aspects of this composition with clearly enunciated original words, tight, precise and disciplined remarks, as well as great tempo management. The mildew of yesteryear is evoked before loosing the conclusion free to jam in order to put a big smile on the audience. Go ahead and smile, this one deserves cheers!
Trumpeter Julio Alvarado is a versatile musician from Puerto Rico who takes a voyage to Brazilian verdant lands in “Son for Emilio.” Alvarado blows a pretty and steady trumpet that sounds secure and youthfully mature by the time it recedes into quite a piano deal. Hereafter, the trumpet returns in force and eventually bids the listener farewell into the upcoming Latin Jam.
“Para Luis” is a jazz jam, most likely dedicated to the HJ producer Luis Álvarez, with the Berklee in Puerto Rico Professors and Students Band, although here only the teachers are jamming it up. Simply stated, the playing for that type of ensemble is just as fun and good as any. Yep, this one is brassy and ballsy.
Notes: The performances of George Benson, and Ron Carter are not represented in the recording. Dennis Mario did the festival’s logo that year. The cover art can be seen at the Merchandise section of the HJ website. This edition of the HJ was held at the Tito Puente Amphitheater.