The links between jazz and Latin music are embodied within the one-and-only Chucho Valdés. A pianist, composer and bandleader, he has won six Grammys and four Latin Grammys, was an original member of the mythical Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna and founded Irakere in 1973, a group known for innovation in Afro-Cuban jazz-based groove, incorporating a massive range of percussion.
This pedigree is on full display at his 2019 performance at the beautiful-located Malta Jazz Festival. Under the lights of the old town, and right on the edge of the Mediterranean, he is joined by his band, Jazz Batá 2, made up of percussionists Dreiser Durruthy, Yaroldy Abreu and Abraham Mansfarroll as well as the bass maestro Ramón Vasquez Martirena.
While the use of batá drums – sacred, hour-glass shaped ritual instruments used in the Yoruba religion – was first considered revolutionary in small jazz ensembles, Valdes has turned it into an accepted strand of contemporary music, another step towards distilling far-flung cultures in search of the most versatile and expressive sound.