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Chucho Valdés Quintet

Thu., Nov. 15, 2012, 8pm

Bass Concert Hall

2350 Robert Dedman Dr., UT campus, 512/471-1444

http://www.utpac.org

Cuban Spanish, unlike rapid-fire Mexican Spanish or stately European Spanish, rushes like a rain-swollen river. The most exhilarating of all Cuban jazz pianists, Chucho Valdés, 71, hustles late into Newark during a rare U.S. tour, but our brief phone exchange bristles with his electric charge.

Talking with Valdés translates into an audience with Fats Waller, Bud Powell, or Bill Evans in 20th century jazz terms.

Austin Chronicle: I tell people you’re the Jimi Hendrix of jazz piano.

Chucho Valdés: Whooooooaaa! Well, God, I don’t know what to say. I try my best, but Jimi Hendrix was one of my inspirations. He was a genius.

AC: The way you manhandle your instrument, I wonder how tall you are.

CV: 6 foot 4.

AC: Does your size play into your playing? You look like a basketball player to me. One doesn’t get such forcefulness out of Keith Jarrett.

CV: Well, but obviously we’re very different players. For me, Keith Jarrett is one of the greatest pianists ever, and one of my favorites. I think the difference has more to do with the fact I’m coming from a Latin background. The whole Latin thing is more aggressive, more rhythmic.

AC: What’s your favorite Duke Ellington tune?

CV: For me, Ellington has so much that’s beautiful. There’s one that’s not Ellington, but he played it. A Billy Strayhorn tune, “Lush Life.” Ellington’s the most important figure in American jazz.

AC: What does jazz have to offer today’s youth?

CV: Jazz helps them unravel the harmonics of music and analyze the possibility of improvisation. Whether you like hip-hop or dancehall or whatever – rap – that’s a basis for you to like jazz. Jazz weaves into the other forms and yet gives you so much more to explore. – Raoul Hernandez

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