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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Jazz Village SP 9570016



1. Congadanza
2. Caridad Amara
3. Tabú
4. Bebo
5. Afro-Comanche
6. Pilar
7. Santa Cruz
8. Abdel.
Chucho Valdés - Piano
Reinaldo Melián Alvarez - Trumpet
Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé - Bátas, lead vocals
Rodney Barreto Illarza - Drums, vocals
Ángel Gastón Joya Perellada - Bass, vocals
Yaroldy Abreu Robles - Percussion, vocals
Branford Marsalis - Tenor sax, soprano sax (tracks 3, 4, 8)
Cuban pianist and composer Chucho Valdes has won five Grammies and three Latin Grammies, so he must be doing something right. He runs two different bands: Irakere, and the Afro-Cuban Messengers. The latter has recently had a personnel change and this is their new album on which, as usual, Chucho combines jazz with Cuban rhythms in a stimulating way. The fact that he has one foot in each camp is indicated by his quoting Softly As in a Morning Sunrise in his introduction to the very first track on this CD (it crops up again in Santa Cruz).
Chucho wrote all but one of the tracks on this album, the exception being Margarita Lecuona's classic Tabú, which the band delivers in a straightforward Cuban style. This is one of the three tracks on which Branford Marsalis makes a guest appearance. Branford plays with lyrical warmth on this track but is more intricate on the following Bebo. Marsalis sounds quite oriental playing soprano sax on the closing Abdel, which has a vigorous samba rhythm.
Despite Branford's welcome contributions, the star of the album is Chucho Valdes himself, as his superb technique seems to allow him to play anything he wants to: from the tender romanticism of Caridad Amara via the percussive Afro-Comanche to the bouncy Santa Cruz.
Tony Augarde


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