REVIEW: Melbourne Jazz Festival’s CHUCHO VALDES AND THE AFRO-CUBAN MESSENGERS

A glorious experience

By Christine Moffat

Chucho Valdés is truly a genius.  He is an innovative virtuoso who, after more than 50 years as a pianist and band leader, is still composing and playing with panache and energy.  He also has a long history of award-winning composition and performances, and is a teacher and practitioner of Afrocuban-Jazz.

Chucho Valdes

His band The Afro-Cuban Messengers (Gaston Joya on bass, Rodney Barreto on drums, Yaroldy Abreu Robles on congas and Dreiser Durruty Bambole on bata) are labelled on Valdés’ official website as “a group of Cuban phenoms” – this is an apt description, as they are the epitome of artistry and dynamism.

The composition ‘Blues Scherezada’, one of the few songs with minimal percussion, was a masterclass in jazz fusion, with amazing bowing work by bassist Joya.  The majority of the pieces performed involved driving rhythms of Barreto, Robles and Bambole in a truly Afrocuban way, intertwinging classic African call and response vocals with a Latin beat.

Last night’s performance was a testament to the effect jazz can have on the body and mind.  Valdés’ style of Aftocuban-Jazz is a heady combination of sophisticated piano and bass with those powerful drums.

The mixture of sound sparkled and bounced around Hamer Hall like light refracting off a polished gemstone.  The audience was transported by the music, and rose for a standing ovation for the final number, and for the encore that we were given in response.

If you have the opportunity to see this act live, do not miss it.  You will be rewarded with an evening of unparalleled jazz, from a fabulous ensemble led by a man well and truly in his musical prime. Amazing.

Chucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers performed at Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall on 8 June 2013 pm as part of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival. See www.melbournejazz.com for more details.

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