Having caught this band at a jazz festival last year, I was keen to get hold of this record. Chucho Valdes has produced a band with a tenor and trumpet front line somewhat modelled on Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Whilst the kind of Hard Bop produced by Blakey has rather had it's day, Valdes uses the same "take no prisioners" approach to his own ensemble but laden with percussion, this is a Latin extravaganza that does not want to rest in it's laurels and remain in one idiom througout it's duration. Instead, Valdes kicks things off with a reworking of Joe Zawinul's "Birdland" with plenty of percussion exchanges before exploring more standard latin fair and even some Cecil Taylor-esque excursions that demonstrate that with a technique as good as his, it is possible to play anything. I liked the track "New Orleans" which eventually morphs into the kind of contemporary "Trad" performed by the likes of Wynton Marsalis. The firt time I heard this, I just wanted to play this track again as the development in the music was so unexpected. Elsewhere, Valdes does things like improvising two , separate improvised lines with both the left and right hands.
With a towering genius like Valdes, the horn players tend to get over-looked although I think the tenor player is particularly good. It is just that Valdes is a complete monster on his instrument with total technical command and the ability to switch into any idiom at short notice.
The whole record is extremely enjoyable and will be guaranteed to have you pressing the replay button. I expected this CD to be good but it is far more entertaining than I imagined, matching the great fun you get from his live performances. Easily one of the best jazz albums of 2010 and probably the more enjoyable. Recommended.