Chucho Valdés - Jazz Batá

Berklee Performance Center

Jazz Batá, the new project of pianist, composer and arranger Chucho Valdés, is both a look forward and a closing of pending business. In 1972, a year before he founded the transcendent Afro-Cuban jazz rock ensemble Irakere, Valdés experimented with a trio, which, while largely ignored at the time, proved crucial for the development of his music. Comprised of piano, acoustic bass and batá, the hourglass shaped drum that is essential in the ritual music of Yoruba religion best known as Santeria. Jazz Batá expressed his deeper Cubanization of jazz and the classic piano jazz trio in both its instrumentation and its sound. The new Jazz Batá is comprised by Valdés on piano; Yelsy Heredia, acoustic bass and Miguel Valdes on percussion and voice.

“El maestro Chucho Valdés is 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

“A pianist of imperial command, possessed of a dazzling, deceptively casual virtuosity.”

The New York Times

About Chucho Valdés' Jazz Batá:

Jazz Batá, the new project of pianist, composer and arranger Chucho Valdés, is both a look forward and a closing of pending business. 

In 1972, a year before he founded the transcendent Afro-Cuban jazz rock ensemble Irakere, Valdés experimented with a trio which, while largely ignored at the time, proved crucial for the development of his music.

Comprising piano, acoustic bass and batá, the hourglass shaped drum that is essential in the ritual music of Yoruba religion, best known as Santeria, Jazz Batá expressed his deeper Cubanization of jazz and the classic piano jazz trio in both, its instrumentation and its sound.

“The recording company couldn’t understand it. They would tell me that it was ‘Crazy jazz,’” recalled Valdés. “They would say ‘Who thinks of a jazz trio without a drum kit?’ Well, I did. I was looking for the sound of our roots. The batá drums were not used in popular music then. Those drums, that music, were considered vulgar, something backward. Some dismissed it as just  ´A black thing.´ But that´s where our roots are.”

Playing a repertoire written especially for the group by Valdés, and featuring not only batá drums but a whole battery of percussion instruments including congas, maracas and guiro, the trio recorded only one album. But the idea “stayed with me,” said the pianist. “It really bothered me not to follow through with the work in Jazz Batá and I was listening to it recently and thought there was a lot there yet. At the time, we chose to follow another path — and Irakere was a great project — but it’s never too late, and now we can continue with that work.”

The new Jazz Batá is comprised by Valdés on piano; Ramon Vazquez, acoustic bass; Yaroldy Abreu on congas; and Dreiser Durruthy on batá and voice. Chucho released a new record featuring the new Jazz Batá on November 16, 2018 to great critical acclaim. The álbum, Jazz Batá 2, claimed a prominent spot on Billboard’s list of Best Latin Albums of 2018, who called him the “founder of the definitive contemporary Cuban jazz.”

“It´s almost all new music,” said Valdés. “After all, while we are based on that original trio, we are doing something very different here. There are years of experiences and development in between. I believe this is going to be even better than the old trio.”

The 2019-20 Jazz Series is sponsored by
DONNA & MICHAEL EGAN

Berklee Performance Center

136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston

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