Chucho Valdés

The Creation
Berklee Performance Center

Chucho Valdés “The Creation”

with the Yoruban Orchestra

Hilario Durán & John Beasley, Musical Directors

 

The extraordinary summation of an extraordinary career

The Creation, the newest project of pianist, composer, and arranger Chucho Valdés, deploys the legend’s formidable compositional talents to take audiences through the Regla de Ocha story of creation, from the Afro-Cuban religious practice Santería. A multi-movement suite, La Creación is Chucho’s latest new work for Afro-Cuban big band, with added percussion and vocals.

Elements of the Santería religion and other Yoruba influences have inspired Valdés for decades, and he has returned to these cultural touchstones throughout the many phases of his storied career, from the big band Irakere to the original and re-launched Jazz Batá trio. This evening-length suite is a chance to hear the full expression of a legend’s engagement with these powerful cultural ritual elements, and to explore how Valdés has woven his cultural heritage throughout his extraordinary career.

In this new work, Valdés and his Yoruban Orchestra employ a sonic palette that includes elements of Santería ritual music, African music, the blues, and what he describes as “an atmosphere in the style of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew.”

“This work is very significant to me,” Valdes concludes. “I think it’s my masterpiece – so far.”

Program Notes - Notas al Programa

Program notes, in Spanish and English. // Notas al programa, en español y inglés.

La Creación (The Creation)

The great Cuban pianist and composer Jesus "Chucho" Valdés presents La Creación, The Creation, his new work for big band, Afro-Cuban percussion and vocals. La Creación is a suite in four movements that explores the story of creation according to the Regla de Ocha, the Afro-Cuban religion known as Santería. It is also an extraordinary summation of an extraordinary career. 

Chucho Valdés began his professional career in the orchestra of his father, the great pianist and arranger Bebo Valdés. In 1967 he was selected to be part of the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna, a big band comprising, and directed by, Cuba's best musicians. But Valdés truly made his early mark in Cuban music's history as founder, leader, and main composer and arranger of the group Irakere, an ensemble that revolutionized Latin Jazz with its fusion of rock, jazz, and Afro-Cuban music.

"This new work represents the accumulation of all my experiences and everything I've learned in music," says Valdés, who will celebrate his 80th birthday in October. "This is a moment of full maturity, personally and musically, and I feel prepared to do this work."

If Irakere indicated a turn in his musical quest, leaving large ensembles behind, La Creación represents a return to big-band sonorities - but "with the experience of the road traveled," says Valdés. "I felt I could return to this format now and with my own language, take it to a higher level than I had reached."

Thematically, in La Creación, Valdés delves into concerns he has explored in works such as La Misa Negra, an early milestone in his career, and Canto a Dios, a more recent composition in which he fused jazz with symphonic music.

The beliefs of the Catholic religion and the Regla de Ocha have coexisted in Cuba for centuries. Whether it was a survival strategy or a simple adaptation to a new context, the orishas, the African deities, assumed early on the identities of Catholic saints. "Canto a Dios looks at certain themes from the point of view of the Catholic faith," says Valdes. "La Creación” focuses on Olodumare, the Creator, God in the Yoruba universe. It's the other part of my roots, of my family, and my history."

Musically, in his new work, Valdés uses a sonic palette that includes elements of Santería ritual music, African music, the blues, and what he describes as "an atmosphere in the style of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew."

"This work is very significant to me," Valdes concludes. "I think it's my masterpiece — so far."

La Creación (The Creation)

El gran pianista y compositor cubano Jesus “Chucho” Valdés presenta La Creación, su nueva obra para big band, percusión afrocubana y voces. Una suite en cuatro movimientos que explora la historia de la creación de acuerdo a la Regla de Ocha, la religión afrocubana conocida como Santería, La Creación es también una extraordinaria recapitulación de una extraordinaria carrera.  

Chucho Valdés inició su carrera profesional en la orquesta de su padre, el gran pianista y arreglista Bebo Valdés. En 1967 fue convocado a ser parte de la Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna, una big band compuesta y dirigida por los mejores músicos de Cuba. Pero Valdés realmente dejó su temprana marca en la historia de la música cubana como fundador, líder y principal compositor y arreglista del grupo Irakere, un ensamble que revolucionó el Latin Jazz con su fusión de rock, jazz y música afrocubana. 

“Esta nueva obra representa la acumulación de todas mis experiencias y todo lo que he aprendido en la música”, dice Valdés, quien cumplirá 80 años en octubre. “Este es un momento de plena madurez, personal y musical, y me siento preparado para hacer esta obra”. 

Si Irakere representó un giro en su búsqueda musical, dejando atrás las grandes orquestas, La Creación representa un retorno a las sonoridades de la big band — pero “con la experiencia de todo un camino recorrido”, dice Valdés. “Sentí que ahora podía volver a retomar este formato y, con mi propio lenguaje, llevarlo a un nivel mayor al que había alcanzado”.

Temáticamente, en La Creación Valdés profundiza en inquietudes que ha explorado en obras tales como La Misa Negra, un temprano hito en su carrera, y Canto a Dios, una composición más reciente en el que fusionó el jazz con la música sinfónica. 

Las creencias de la religión católica y de la Regla de Ocha han coexistido en Cuba por siglos. Sea por una estrategia de sobrevivencia o una simple adaptación a un nuevo contexto, los orishas, las deidades africanas, asumieron desde temprano las identidades de santos católicos. “El Canto a Dios mira ciertos temas desde la fe católica” dice Valdés. “La Creación” se enfoca en Olodumare, el Creador, Dios en el universo Yoruba. Es la otra parte de mis raíces, de mi familia, de mi historia”.

Musicalmente, en su nueva obra, Valdés utiliza una paleta sonora que incluye elementos de la música ritual de Santería, música africana, el blues y  lo que él describe como “una atmósfera al estilo del Bitches Brew de Miles Davis”. 

“Esta obra es muy importante para mí”, concluye Valdés. “Creo que, hasta el momento, es mi obra maestra.”

“One of the great treasures of the music world… Valdés grounds his work in the aural history of mother Cuba, while seamlessly weaving in aspects of folk, jazz, and classical to create a singular musical vision”

DownBeat magazine

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