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Jazz Journey with Cuban Legend Chucho Valdes

13th November 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Cucho Valdes has been described as the Duke Ellington of Cuba for his important contributions as a pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger. Valdes, 70, the son of legendary pianist Bebo Valdes, 94, remarkably plays a free concert Monday, November 19, at the newly renovated Joy Theater on Canal Street. The show is presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation as part of its Jazz Journey series.

One could compare Valdes and Ellington, two artistic giants, for their great enthusiasm that helped carry their particular styles of music forward. They share a sense of undeniable elegance and precision that is both stunning and welcoming. Beyond the music, Valdes has also been central to the Havana Jazz Festival’s success and continues his deep involvement in bringing artists from around the world together to share their music and creativity.

Valdes, who has earned five Grammys and three Latin Grammys, performs with his new quintet that includes fellow countrymen with percussionist Yaroldy Abreu Robes, drummer Rodney Yllarza Barreto, bata drummer and vocalist Dreiser Durruthy Bombale and bassist Angel Gaston Yoya Perellada. It is the ensemble that will be heard on Valdes’ upcoming album due out in the spring. That disc follows the pianist’s 2010 release Chucho’s Steps, which won a Grammy for Best Latin Jazz album. Incidentally, that CD includes a strong jazz number, “New Orleans” that was written by Valdes as a tribute to the Marsalis family. The pianist has enjoyed a long relationship with pianist Ellis Marsalis and in more recent times with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

The world fully picked up on Valdes’ huge talent as an innovator when in 1972 he co-founded the revolutionary group Irakere. The eclectic band, which included such notables as trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and saxophonist/flautist Paquito d’Rivera, fused Afro-Cuban styles, jazz, folkloric elements, funk and more to create a new sound of its own.

Primarily thought of as a Latin jazz artist, Valdes remains an explorer. On his latest project it is said that he’s leaning stylistically more towards Afro-Cuban, including the addition of vocals by Bombale, and even flamenco and Indian music.

To enjoy the great spirit of Chucho Valdes in the historic Joy Theater is certainly a privilege. That it is free allows everyone to experience one of the great musicians of our time.

The concert opens at 8 p.m. with a performance by a band led by Alexey Marti, a fine, young Cuban percussionist who is now living, studying and playing regularly with a variety of top artists in New Orleans.

For more information go to

Tuesdays with Stanton at Snug

Stanton Moore remains best known as co-founder and the force behind the drums in the highly successful group Galactic. With that band and others, such as Garage A Trois, the Louisiana native rocks and funks out. Recording with the nationally renowned Corrosion of Conformity he punked out.

Moore, 40, however, also boasts solid roots and a strong educational background in jazz as both a leader and a sideman. Heading his own trio at Snug Harbor every Tuesday in November, the hard-hitting drummer will display his jazz chops and finesse. Onboard for what are sure to be excellent shows are two of this city’s finest and most imaginative players, pianist David Torkanowsky and bassist James Singleton.

It was the sound of the drums in Carnival parades that first caught Moore’s interest when he was just a child. He attended Brother Martin High School because, he once said, “I knew they had a killing drum line.” He went on to earn a degree in music and business at Loyola University and honed his traditional jazz style with Joe Simon’s band. On the modern jazz front, Moore has worked with saxophonist Donald Harrison and was called on to perform in a tribute band in honor of the late great drummer, James Black. To do that, a drummer definitely has to have the right jazz stuff.

“I’ve always wanted to be diverse but keep the music in the New Orleans tradition,” Moore has said.

Chompin’ at the Po-Boy Festival

Organizers of the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival, Sunday, November 18, definitely had an “aha!” moment when it was decided that the event should celebrate one of New Orleans very favorite and historic foods. It’s been so overwhelmingly popular that each year the presenters have had to tweak the layout in order to accommodate the hungry crowds. A new design in the area of Oak Street and South Carrollton Avenue will again greet festival-goers this year.

With 30 participating food vendors, the festival naturally offers quite a range of variations on the once-humble sandwich, which originated and got its name during a strike by streetcar conductors in 1929. Sympathetic to their plight, restauranteurs Bennie and Clovis Martin fed the strikers the sandwiches for free. Brother Bennie, it has been written, once said that when he or anybody saw the men coming for food, they would say, “Here comes another poor boy.”

The music, which is offered at just two venues this year, kicks off at 11:30 a.m. on the stage at Leonides and Plum streets. It opens with the group Los Poboycitos followed by Flow Tribe and the Honey Island Swamp Band. The Tremé Funktet, featuring trombonist Corey Henry and trumpeter Travis “Trumpet Black” Hill, closes the stage blowing from 4:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. This band has been steaming things up all over town with some solid and funky vibes.

The other venue at Dante and Plum streets is dedicated to young, up-and-coming musicians who are involved with various educational endeavors primarily offered by the Tipitina’s Foundation. For further information, go to .

This article originally published in the November 12, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.