TO Jazz Review: Chucho Valdés, Enwave Theatre, July 1

Chucho Valdés

Toronto – Five-time grammy award winner Chucho Valdés played the Enwave Theatre last night. This was one of my most anticipated shows of the jazz festival and it did not disappoint. Chucho is a Cuban-born pianist that has flawlessly fused elements of latin jazz, afro-cuban music, and even touches of Classical into a sound all his own. The result was a stand-up set that will remain a signature show of the jazz festival for me this year.

Latin jazz, and Cuban jazz in particular, is all about the rythmic underpinnings. It’s why the genre is so infectious. By keeping the music grounded in such a laid-back groove, it allows for some really fun and inventive improvisation. When you pair these rythmic sensibilities with a beautiful sounding room like the Enwave Theatre, the result is engrossing. The Enwave Theatre knows how to do acoustics, and bands that are heavy on percussion are well-suited to play there.

One highlight was when they started playing these African drums called Shakera by inserting the neck of the drum directly into the condenser mic’s at the front of the stage. I couldn’t help but sense how timeless this was. It reminded of what our African forefathers would have sounded like hundreds, if not thousands of years ago when they made weird effects with drums and condenser mics.

How do I describe Chucho’s sound? He’s definitely a virtuoso, but he’s grounded in completely unpretentious style. His playing is an eclectic fusion, but it works so beautifully that calling it a fusion detracts from its distinct voice. Over the course of the night, he displayed fast piano chops, pensive ballads, and a few nods towards Classical. This was fantastic live music.

One highlight was when the bassist and percussionist started playing these African drums called Shakera. They made these really cool sound effects by inserting the neck of the drum directly into the condenser mic’s at the front of the stage. Not only did it sound wild,  but I couldn’t help but sense how timeless this was. It reminded of what our African forefathers would have sounded like hundreds, if not and thousands of years ago when they made weird effects with drums and condenser mics.

I would not hesitate to go out of my way to see Chucho Valdés play again.

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Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival

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