'Dean of Latin jazz' plays Jan. 31

Posted by John Mark Rafacz on January 30, 2012 

Have you seen the weather forecast for Tuesday in State College? I'm no meteorologist, but I can't help but wonder if the unseasonably balmy air on the way has something to do with the arrival of Cuban jazz pianist Chucho Valdés.

"The dean of Latin jazz' makes his Center for the Performing Arts debut when he performs with his Afro-Cuban Messengers at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31 in Penn State's Eisenhower Auditorium.

Bebop jazz meets Cuban dance rhythms in Valdés' sophisticated and listener-friendly music. Much of the music in the concert comes from Chucho's Steps, the widely acclaimed 2011 CD that was his first recording with the band he created in 2009. The concert is also likely to include new material.

"Mr. Valdés has long been a pianist of imperial command, possessed of a dazzling, deceptively casual virtuosity," a New York Times critic wrote after hearing the pianist and his band Jan. 21 at Carnegie Hall. "At 70 he’s also one of the dignitaries and custodians of Cuban music, particularly the jazz-inflected species he has cross-bred himself."

Dionisio Jesús Valdés Rodríguez, born in 1941 in Havana, is also a composer, arranger and music professor. His love of music started in the womb. His father was legendary Cuban musician Bebo Valdés, and his mother, Pilar Rodríguez, was a singer and piano teacher.

In 1972 he created the band Irakere, a revolutionary mix of jazz, rock, classical and Cuban music recognized as the most important group in Cuba in the second half of the 20th century.

His current band, the Afro-Cuban Messengers, includes seven players on bass, trumpet, tenor sax, various forms of percussion and vocals. The pianist's younger sister, Mayra Caridad Valdés, sings with the group.

Tickets are still available for the concert.

Two members of the band are scheduled to speak at Artistic Viewpoints, which begins one hour before the concert and is free for ticket holders.




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