Get our free newsletter
In 1975, Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés established Irakere, a big-band group he’d formed two years earlier, as the official vehicle to express all his musical ideas. The son of acclaimed bandleader Bebo Valdés, Chucho picked up his musical skills from his dad, recordings, and a stint at the Havana Music Conservatory. His compositions for Irakere are accordingly diverse: keys, horns, strings, percussion, and occasional vocals incorporated into jazz, Afro-Cuban folklore, and dance music. Thanks to his formal training, Chucho also found room for some fast-fingered classical runs. Now, in a program entitled “Chucho Valdés: Irakere 40,” Chucho’s current group, The Afro-Cuban Messengers, will perform both Irakere favorites and newer songs. Early iterations of Irakere featured trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and alto saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, who became big name jazz acts in the States, so audiences can expect a similarly brassy showcase this time around. Chucho and the band will shift back and forth from song sections with swinging polyrhythms to ones with flashy solos, bursts of noisy brass, head nodding percussion, ritual chants, and warm, comforting melodies. Chucho Valdes performs at 7 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. $28–$58. (301) 581-5199. strathmore.org.