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Fantasia Cubana

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Album Review

As one of Cuba's greatest Latin and Afro-Cuban jazz pianists and long an important bandleader, Jesús Chucho Valdés has earned international renown and a devoted audience of jazz fans. However, the imaginative composer and virtuosic improviser does not waiver from his ability to interpret acknowledged classics. Fantasia Cubana: Variations on Classical Themes demonstrates this attribute and reveals Chucho Valdés in peak form. He pays homage to Ernesto Lecuona, the concert pianist and founder of the Havana Symphony who is generally recognized as the most important Cuban musician of the first half of the 20th century. The recording includes 14 compositions with three completely different takes of "Chopin: Three Faces of Lecuona: La Comparsa." Valdés, who performs in a solo setting on this recording, also plays a set of colorful, gentle originals, including "Sunrise," the title track, "La Campesina," and a very percussive "Wakamba." His mastery of polyrhythms is remarkable and his wonderful variations on classical themes uplift the music to how the original composers might enjoy them or change them to reflect the impact of the 21st century. These songs are also a powerful tribute to the enormous influence of Zenaida Romeu (who taught him classical piano) and his North American jazz pianist influences, McCoy Tyner and Oscar Peterson.


Born: October 9, 1941 in Quivican, Cuba

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Cuban pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger Chucho Valdes is a highly accomplished and influential figure in the world of Latin and Afro-Cuban jazz. Born in Quivican in 1941, Valdes is the son of the similarly influential Cuban bandleader Bebo Valdes from whom Chucho first received piano lessons. Having exhibited musical talent from a young age, Valdes eventually enrolled in the Municipal Music Conservatory of Havana, graduating at age 14. Inspired by such jazz pianists as Art Tatum and Thelonious...
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Fantasia Cubana, Chucho Valdés
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