How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Recorded in 1998 at Jazz At Lincoln Center in New York, Chucho Valdés' solo piano album brings familiar melodies to the audience with his personal zeal for powerful rhythms ingrained. Zestful ideas and constant shifts characterize his approach. Opening with a heartfelt ballad and including such familiar melodies as "Bésame Mucho" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Valdés connects with the audience each time out. Each selection sounds like an old acquaintance; however, Valdés takes the time to apply his magic. You can hear Art Tatum in the swing of "Delirio," Bill Evans in the shifting harmony of "A mi Madre," McCoy Tyner in the percussive phrasing of "Tres Lindas Cubanas," Cecil Taylor in the free-form assertiveness of "La Negra Tomasa," and Chucho Valdés throughout. For political reasons, U.S. audiences didn't see much of the Cuban pianist until recent years. Things have changed somewhat, and our hopes are high that this musical ambassador will continue to open doors. Characterized as mainstream Latin jazz with a superior sense of adventure, Valdés' album speaks to every man through the universal language.