This self-titled album is a fitting tribute to Touré’s and Diabaté’s genius and friendship, and is a beautiful farewell.
Chucho Valdes is easily the living king of Cuban jazz piano. This anthology, issued by the premier Bele Bele Jazz Club label from Spain, is an overview of the roots of the pianist's development as both an interpreter of classic Cuban material and as an improviser. The first 12 tracks on the set, recorded in 1970, borrow heavily from the "feelings" movement of Cuban dancehall music from the late '40s and early '50s, with numerous compositions by Jose Mendez and Cesar Portillo de la Luz. There are also trademark Valdes originals such as his own "Preludio No. 1," based on Debussy's. Other tracks here, from 1982, borrow from the later dancehall traditions and lineages such as the "Evocations" series written by Jesus Valdez including one for Josh White! The first 12 cuts features Valdes with a stellar rhythm section that included bassist Orlando Lopez (Cachaito) and drummer Enrique Pla, and the last eight are solo.
Diving into Vivaldi's Orlando furioso with Jean-Christophe Spinosi, Matheus Ensemble, and a shockingly good cast is enough to make even the most jaded listener smile. It is fresh, unrelentingly impressive, and entertaining to a fault. The opera is over-plotted: the first paragraph of the synopsis is enough to confuse anyone not taking notes. And listening to the entire thing would amount to more flowery, athletic vocalism than most can stand in one sitting. But those with the remotest interest in Vivaldi opera, or opera at all, will be hard pressed not to marvel at the quality of what's recorded here. Spinosi is a brilliant Vivaldian who pulls sweet-toned lyricism and down-and-dirty sawing from his Matheus Ensemble, making the most of the composer's rich orchestration. And the cast pulls one rabbit after another out of its collective hat, tackling Vivaldi's consummately difficult arias with élan.