Bebel Gilberto, Chucho Valdes & the Afro-Cuban Messengers | Ravinia Festival | International | Chicago Reader

Bebel Gilberto, Chucho Valdes & the Afro-Cuban Messengers All Ages Recommended Soundboard Image

When: Wed., July 30, 8 p.m. 2014

On the cover of his most recent album, Border-Free (Jazz Village), explosive Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes wears an enormous feathered Native American headdress—a reference to a tune of his called “Afro-Comanche,” which honors Comanches deported by Spanish soldiers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries from what would later become the southwestern U.S., many of whom ended up in Cuba (via Mexico and Spain) and integrated into the island’s community. The message is clear: people, like music, aren’t contained or defined by geography. Few musicians have embodied that idea as thoroughly as Valdes, who cofounded influential Cuban jazz-fusion group Irakere in 1973; with his protean talents, he’s obliterated the boundaries between Cuban tradition and jazz tradition. The name of his current group is of course a hat tip to Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and though the original tunes nod to Latin music (propulsive clave-based polyrhythms, ubiquitous percussion breakdowns, et cetera), they usually follow the durable “theme followed by improvisation” structure that’s endured in hard bop for six decades. (The band’s previous album is called Chucho’s Steps, a Coltrane reference.) “Bebo,” which Valdes wrote to memorialize his brilliant piano-playing father, sounds like a jazz standard with a clave beat; it’s also one of three tracks to feature the fiery saxophone of Branford Marsalis. Other pieces reach elsewhere for ideas. “Abdel” explores Gnawa music; “Pilar,” which opens as an extended duet with bassist Angel Gaston Joya Perellada, weaves in bits of two pieces Valdes’s mother loved, Miles Davis’s “Blue in Green” and Bach’s Prelude in D Minor; and “Caridad Amaro,” written for his grandmother, borrows from Rachmaninoff. —Peter Margasak

Price: $22-$55

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