Chucho Valdes & Irakere review – a Cuban hurricane of brass and bata

The current 10-piece edition look young enough to be Valdes's children, or even grandchildren. A five-strong brass and reeds section wail and snap over the tumult from a booming bass, the matchless leader at the piano and three drummers.

Bata-player Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé opened with quietly tuneful patterns that quickly doubled in speed, were picked up by hand-drums, shakers and Rodney Barreto's kit, then became a medium groove with a spirited Afro-Cuban vocal chant, and stopped on an admonishing shout.

A sensuous bolero drew a lissom flugelhorn solo from Reinaldo Melián, shadowed by a blend of glittering treble runs and throbbing low chord-vamps from Valdes. A traffic-jam clamour of brass riffs swept in behind Bombalé's vocal on its harmonically more dissonant successor – which began to sound increasingly like 60s modal jazz with Ariel Bringuez's somewhat Wayne Shorter-like tenor sax break, and the almost free-improvisational stream of piano lines that followed it.

Valdes introduced a tango with asides of a Russian navy dance in its shifting rhythms, and some luxurious Rachmaninov chords in the harmony. A lyrical jazz ballad became a familiar Cuban dance groove, a glide that drifted close to the melody of Spanish Harlem, then became a funk gallop and ended with some thrilling percussion badinage.

The band wound an already vibrant show's intensity up to eleven with a handclapping funk riff that set a cheerleading Bombalé bouncing through the crowd, finally returning to the stage for an ecstatically writhing dance.

See original & full review by The Guardian here

Buy Irakere CD: Irakere Colecion III, EGREM 1995 here