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Chucho Valdés: not sitting this one out

Scott Haas
Chucho Valdés: not sitting this one out

Chucho Valdés, Cuban-born pianist and composer, is performing in a solo streaming concert through the Boston-based Celebrity Series on Sunday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. The performance, which will be prerecorded, features Valdés from the New World Center in Miami. Following the concert, there will be a live question-and-answer session moderated by Argentinian-born jazz journalist Fernando González.

The stream stays live for 72 hours and tickets are priced uniformly at $20. It is a rare opportunity to hear the music of one of the greatest Afro-Cuban jazz performers ever, without leaving your home, and to learn about him and his music from the insights of the acclaimed and informed González.

Due to the pandemic, U.S.-based musicians are coming up with innovative plans to work and to bring their music to audiences. The Celebrity Series has joined forces with performers to create “Celebrity Series at Home” this Fall. With no live performances taking place through December 2020, shows like that of Valdés are making art possible.

Coming from a musical family rooted in Cuban and Afro-Caribbean history, Valdés draws on tradition and modernity. His father, Bebo, internationally known for his work as a composer, musician and bandleader, achieved notoriety as director of the Tropicana Club Orchestra before leaving Cuba in 1960. Chucho got his start with Bebo and was part of the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna and then Irakere before starting Batá in 1972, which has since reformed and become Jazz Batá 2, which won a Latin Grammy as Best Latin Jazz album.

One traditional element of Valdés’ African heritage is the batá, described by Celebrity Series as  “the hourglass-shaped drum that is essential in the ritual music of Yoruba religion best known as Santeria.”

Valdés’ influence on jazz extends beyond his curating: He ties together new and old on his latest release (2018) “Jazz Batá 2,” which features Carlos del Puerto on bass, Oscar Valdés on batá and Valdés on piano. He also includes Regina Carter, the great jazz violinist out of Detroit, on two tunes, “Ochún,” referring to the Yoruba goddess, and “100 Años de Bebo,” an homage to his father, who would have turned 100 in 2018, and with whom he shares a birthday.

Valdés turned 79 years old this year, and the upcoming concert is a way to celebrate his lifetime of music.

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