A solo piano album can work wonders for your soul. The music drives deeply with personal reflections that we’ve been learning, little by little, since childhood. Thanks to composers such as Chopin, Debussy, Ravel and Ernesto Lécuona, we’ve shared much over the years. Chucho Valdés pays homage to each of them and adds his originals. Sparkling suites that change mood as the landscapes come and go provide much room for contemplation. Valdés gives us a lot to think about. Like a bridge over troubled water, his 6th Blue Note album swings gently between the classical tradition and contemporary scores. Valdés is a fiery improviser, but he’s restrained himself for this outing. A pavane has to remain stately; a reverie must be dreamy, and an arabesque should always sweep the room with dignity. The pianist adds subtle fire on occasion, but it’s mere seasoning for the roast. He prefers to leave the natural flavor unchanged this time out. A tribute of this sort, however, need not remain so straight. Near the end of the program, with his “Tumbão” and “Impromptu,” the pianist lights a fire that begs for more improvising time. While the session interprets treasured classical music, it expresses comparatively little of the native fire that Chucho Valdés has been known to display with emphasis.
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