barabara sounds sez:
Too much talk about virtuosity and prodigious technique, not enough about the passion and balls that the great Chucho Valdés brings to the table. Catch him live and you'll be blown away.
Like the recent Sabu post, this album is inspired by the traditional rhythms of Cuba's 'Religion of the Congo' — but apart from the sheer percussive power, it's a very diffferent beast. In Chateau Barabara, it's an all-time classic.
Pianist Valdés once again puts Cuban and American music through the speed blender of his imposing technique, swirling together cuban secular dance rhythms and religious music with swing, bop, modal, and free jazz at a dizzying pace. His second Blue Note effort away from Irakere (his long-standing Afro-Cuban answer to the Jazz Messengers) spotlights his staggering chops with a quartet featuring bassist Francisco Rubio Pampin, drummer Ra·l Pineda Roque, and percussionist Robert Vizcaino Guillet.
"El Rumbon," played over an uncharacteristically fast guaguanco rhythm, features the pianist's surreal changes of direction, as he cartwheels between hammered two-note drum patterns, McCoy Tyner-ish chords, blindingly fast lines, and blues licks. Ellington's "Caravan" features devilish left-hand patterns and accents that explode into dark, atonal note clusters, then downshift into the type of four-four chording that Erroll Garner would have related to. Valdés saves the most audacious ideas until the end of the album. "Ponle le Clave" grafts the basic clave rhythm and montuno piano vamps onto a 7/4 meter. Gershwin's familiar "Rhapsody in Blue" is reshaped as an elegant danzün.
The title track, the most experimental on the disc, blends a celebratory Palo religious chant with stride and gospel accents from Valdés. Then it opens into a free-tempo exchange between singers, percussionists, and piano, before ending with an unaccompanied piano solo that alternates between frantic energy and quiet lyricism. Sometimes, the pianist's skill and overheated imagination can get the better of him, turning the music into directionless technical displays, but when everything clicks, there are few more exciting or provocative pianists in jazz.
Chucho Valdes (piano, background vocals); Mayra Caridad Valdes, Juan "Chan" Campo Cardenas (vocals); Joaquin Olivero Gavilan (Cuban wooden flute); Francisco Rubio Pampin (acoustic bass, background vocals); Raul Pineda Roque (drums, background vocals); Roberto Vizcaino Guillot (congas, bata drums, background vocals); Haila Mompie Gonzalez (background vocals)