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Whether the blues performed here is folk-craft or great art (we favor the latter), you won't find more emotionally riveting, personal performances. Obviously guys like Waterman believed this enough to persuade a Son House (who'd left the biz in 1948), a Mississippi John Hurt, and a Skip James to share their legacy with the rest of the world.

Chucho Valdes
Solo Piano
(Blue Note)
By Adrian Castro

I wonder if there's a sphere where talking pianos fly -- Thelonious Monk pianos, McCoy Tyner pianos, Dave Brubeck pianos, Oscar Peterson pianos. Among those airborne 88s would be Chucho Valdes's instrument of choice. Documented on his first Blue Note release is a vast array of spontaneous melodic gymnastics balanced with technical mastery, all of it tumbling through ten tunes straight outta Cuba.

The first eight tracks feature Chucho solito, giving listeners a dose of ominous, nostalgic, pensive melodies countered with machine-gun lyrical phrasing (especially in "Nandy"). Many styles flow through the CD -- blues and Dixieland ("Blues Yes"), strains of bebop ("Blues [Untitled]"), traditional son ("Nandy" and "Togo"), and Afro-Cuban ("Noliu" and "When I Fall in Love"). "When I Fall in Love" will especially please the most selective of Irakere fans with its exquisite blend of Afro percussion and jazz strings. A heavy -- pero bien heavy -- conversation takes place between fingers, ebony, ivory, and strings. You are eavesdropping on a special dialogue. Listen up. It's only a piano.

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