Chucho Valdés is at the top of his game here, on Tribute to Irakere (Live in Marciac). There is a visceral excitement in the performance, where the music is played in the idiomatic vein of Irakere. This means the creation of an attractive, edifying atmosphere in Marciac with the celebrated collision of African polyrhythms together with a polyphony born of Cuban folk forms that Chucho Valdés is so well known for adapting to his electrifying style.
Many of the top Cuban jazz musicians have played in Irakere during the past several decades, including altoist Paquito D'Rivera and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval (before both individually defected). Pianist Chucho Valdes has been the orchestra's longtime leader, and its music ranges from Latin jazz and bop to Cuban folk melodies, with an emphasis on infectious rhythms and advanced improvisations. Several of Irakere's records have been made available domestically (including sets for Columbia and Jazz House).
For Latin jazz fans, this is a succinct and nearly complete roundup of Irakere's two North American albums, a brief peek through Cuba's door before politics slammed it shut again for another generation. Irakere is represented by four tracks, including the lengthy, uncut "Black Mass," and Irakere II by six tracks.
The billing (Irakere "featuring Chucho Valdés") illustrates what a draw the leader-pianist Valdés has become in his own right, and Yemayá does indeed showcase his prodigious talents as a keyboardist, albeit on an electro-acoustic instrument and with a set designed as much for the American jazz audience as for his Cuban roots. The opening title cut with Valdés's sister Mayra Caridad on vocals is a killer Latin-soul-jazz workout, while track 2, with blistering solo work from Valdés over a crisp, percussion-led rhythm, sets the tone for the remaining seven extended cuts. This is not so much Cuban music as jazz with a Latin base–complex, disciplined, but swinging hard. Yemayá represents a new phase for Irakere and is Latin Jazz of the highest caliber, full of virtuosity and passion.
Irakere was the synthesis of every influence that had been played in Cuban music. Irakere created a sound that mixed jazz, European traditional music, rock, funk and the rhythmic Cuban traditions. Chekere is the second bands 1976 album, essential to understand and enjoy both Cuban music and Latin jazz history.
Afro-Cuban jazz act Irakere presents EXUBERANCIA, featuring eight infectious tracks including "Chango" and "Guan Tan Amera." Nine tracks recorded live at Ronnie Scott's in June 1988. Top notch, up-tempo, impeccably recorded Afro-Cuban jazz.
"Irakere is Cuba's, and in my opinion, the world's greatest and most influential Afro-Cuban Jazz band ever. There is no better setting to hear this incredible group than a live setting. This CD was recorded live in 1991 at London's famed Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club. Although many obviously feel that the original version of Irakere, which included Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D'Rivera along with Chucho Valdes, is the best incarnation of the group, there is no denying the incredible power and virtuoso musicianship of this incarnation of the group from the late 80's-early 90's which included Orlando "Maraca" Valle on flute, Miguel "Anga" Diaz on congas and percussion, Cesar Lopez on sax, and Juan Munguia on trumpet.
If there would be a list of afro-cuban orchestras then it would start with the 1973 founded “institution” Irakere. What makes this recording a highlight of the many releases of the band is the tracklisting – from Scott Joplins“Ragtime” over Mozarts “Adagio” right up to Chucho Valdes’s “Misa Negra” – it reads like the Who’s Who in music history.
Babalu Aye closes a circle of sorts for Irakere. Most of the songs on this album are salsa Cubana, some sounding very much like the original New York salsa of years past. But of course, it's salsa with the Irakere flair: electric guitars with the distortion cranked up come in and out; the horn section plays tightly, then loosens considerably in the solos, putting little relaxed ornaments around each phrase, then suddenly tightens up again; the whole band chants phrases in unison.
Capturing a period between 1974 and 1985, in what was arguably Irakere's heyday, after they had developed a strong stylistic voice, and before the direction of jazz fusion changed significantly in the '90s, Bacalao con Pan, a collection from the Escondida label, is an excellent showcase for some of Irakere's B-sides and lesser-known gems, with a few dance hits thrown in for good measure.