SFJAZZ has something to celebrate this week. In a first-time collaboration, two luminaries from the world of jazz – Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano – are giving four performances at the JAZZ Center, as part of their 2016-17 international tour. Both have long-standing ties to SFJAZZ, so it’ll be like welcoming a pair of good friends!
In a review of their appearance at Ronnie Scott’s in London last month, The Guardian wrote: “In the hands of this pair, the melodic intricacies of contemporary jazz and the sensuality of Cuban dance music are fused with all the casual resourcefulness that has made Lovano and Valdés jazz world leaders for decades.”
Pianist and composr Valdés – with five GRAMMY® and three Latin GRAMMY Awards to his credit – is regarded as the most influential figure in modern Afro-Cuban jazz. This tour with Lovano is the latest in a series of projects which he has undertaken in the past few years. Irakere 40, an extensive tour of the US in 2015, celebrated the band of which Valdés was co-founder. The album Tribute to Irakere (Live in Marciac), was recorded during the Jazz in Marciac festival in France earlier in the year.
In October 2015, Valdés headlined a concert with Chinese piano superstar Lang Lang and the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra in Havana, in a program which included music by Tchaikovsky, Elgar, George Gershwin, Ernesto Lecuona, James P Johnson, Antonio Maria Romeu and Valdés himself.
He also performed in the opening concert of the 2014-15 season of Jazz at Lincoln Center, with a line-up which included trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis, and Cuban singer and percussionist Pedrito Martínez. Valdés featured in the premiere of the suite Ochas, written by Marsalis, for piano, batá, voices and orchestra.
GRAMMY® Award winner Joe Lovano is described by All Music, as “the tenor titan for our times”, “drawing on the past, always in the present, looking toward the future”. Regarded as a true heir to the heritage of artists such as Coleman Hawkins, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, he is also known for his ability to push at boundaries in his endeavor to find new styles of artistic expression. In another achievement, he has recorded more albums as a leader for recording label Blue Note than any other artist, including Flying Colors with Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba.
Chucho Valdés and Joe Lovano appear with a backing group which includes some of Cuba’s most accomplished young instrumentalists – Gastón Joya on bass, drummer Francesco Mela and percussionist Yaroldi Abreu Robles.
This is an event that lovers of jazz won’t want to miss – as SFJAZZ puts it: “Together, Lovano and Valdés are traveling beyond genre and style to a rarified realm that’s pure inspiration.”
They’re onstage in the Miner Auditorium at SFJAZZ from Thursday November 17 to Sunday November 20. For more information and tickets, visit sfjazz.org.
SFJAZZ program notes