Monday, November 1, 2010

Chucho takes Washington

Piano virtuoso Chucho Valdes and his band played Washington for the first time in seven years last Saturday night, and had their audience at the nearly packed Warner Theater riveted throughout a two-hour set.

Chucho reminded us how our American art form, jazz, is a combination of many musical streams, including some from the Caribbean and Africa – which means that it’s more just ours, and it’s “American” in the larger sense of the word. Players from Cuba can own the form as much as anyone born here – and in the case of this septet, did they ever, and did they ever swing.

Chucho showed reverence and affection for American artists and their work, dedicating a number to Joe Zawinul, playing a musical romp dedicated to New Orleans, quoting Gershwin’s An American in Paris, quoting Brubeck’s Blue Rondo with a little grin to the crowd, and playing a sweet medley of Duke Ellington’s songs.

The Ellington tribute was fitting, considering that he was sitting about a mile from the Duke’s birthplace. And like Ellington himself when he reached a certain age, Chucho is impish as can be at the keyboard, running circles around the young players with whom he fearlessly surrounds himself.

Above, an image of the band’s current CD.

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