Afro-Cuban jazz legends Chucho Valdés and Paquito D’Rivera pay tribute to their deeply rooted friendship on the long-awaited reunion album I Missed You Too!
and it’s every bit the momentous, heartfelt, richly nuanced journey that audiences could expect.
The album marks the pair’s first formal outing since their years together as founding members of Cuba’s iconic fusion ensemble, Irakere. D’Rivera’s sudden defection from Cuba in 1980 prompted a decades-long divide between two of Cuba’s most influential jazzmen. In recent years, the once inseparable duo began orbiting each other in international music circles, realizing that more than 40 years apart did little to diminish their affection. I Missed You Too!
is ultimately an homage to the power of music to build bridges. Executed within a precise, virtuosic framework that elegantly sums up Valdés and D’Rivera’s connection through the years, the album brims with possibility as the maestros seamlessly pick up where they left off.
A cast of exceptional Afro-Cuban jazz specialists — Diego Urcola on trumpet and valve trombone, José Armando Gola on double bass and electric bass, Dafnis Prieto on drums and Roberto Jr. Vizcaino on percussion — rounds out the sextet. Recorded at the Frost School of Music in Miami, the seven-track set encompasses masterfully reworked Irakere classics “Mambo Influenciado,” “Mozart à la Cubana” and “Claudia,” as well as songs culled from the Latin-American songbook.
The album’s title track, a D’Rivera composition, opens with Prieto’s evocative drumming and exudes warmth within a steady mid-tempo cadence from which D’Rivera performs silky serpentine runs on clarinet. Meanwhile, Valdés’ rich, angular chord shades envelop the tune and expand its parameters. The vibrant “Pac-Man,” an Hilario Duran tip of the hat to D’Rivera, swings with gusto. Valdés anchors the piece with montuno
comping amid hard-driving, dance-inducing percussion, as brass and reeds oscillate between punchy and discursive. And “El Majá de Vento” is a dizzying Valdés and D’Rivera composition goaded by a full-throttle groove and incessant rhythms layered by Valdés’ contrapuntal, fleet-fingered dexterity and D’Rivera’s and Urcola’s soaring horn passages.
“El Día Que Me Quieras,” a Carlos Gardel tango, closes the album with an emotive, soul-baring conversation between two life-long friends rediscovering themselves in one another. The future of Afro-Cuban jazz is shining brighter. — Lissette Corsa