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Solo - Live In New York (2001)

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Chucho Valdés

Following up on 2000's ensemble tour de force Live at the Village Vanguard, Blue Note issued this album by Cuban sensation Chucho Valdés -- a solo concert recorded live in 1998 at Lincoln Center's Kaplan Penthouse in New York. Listening to the great pianist in an unaccompanied setting, one is struck not only by his formidable technique but also by the huge sound he gets out of the instrument. His versatility is also something to behold: Valdés has the delicate touch of a jazz pianist, the rhythmic heart of a Latin master, the velocity and technical resources of a classical virtuoso. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "Besame Mucho" are the only cuts that will be easily recognized by American listeners. The rest are Latin themes by composers such as César Portillo de la Luz ("Delirio"), José Antonio Mendez ("Novia Mia"), and Antonio Maria Romeu ("Tres Lindas Cubanas"). Valdés also contributes two of his own: "A Mi Madre," a beautiful ballad that segues into a rousing vamp-based section, and "Rumba Guajira," a lively Latin tune with pronounced elements of gospel harmony. ~ David R. Adler