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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

IRAKERE

By Michael Stone
Published September 27, 2005

Great Moments
Milan

Formed in 1973 by pianist Chucho Valdés, Irakere quickly marked out new territory by fusing traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms and Latin dance with the instrumentation and improvisatory spirit of jazz. The original group included standout trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and bassist Carlos del Puerto, and later welcomed a string of prominent Cuban artists including sax and clarinet wizard Paquito d’Rivera, and flautists Orlando Valle “José Luis Cortés (founder of NG La Banda). Irakere made its North American debut at Carnegie Hall in 1978, won a Grammy in 1979 as the first Cuban group under Castro to sign with a U.S. label, and recorded with the likes of Stan Getz, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. Great Moments compiles nine highlights from Irakere’s three-decade trajectory, including compositions by Valdés (“Valle de picadura,” “Las margaritas,” “Baila mi ritmo”), del Puerto (“A Chano Pozo”), seminal Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona’s classic “Danza de los Ñáñigos” and, with the collaboration of Cuban composer and acoustic guitarist Léo Brouwer, interpretations of Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” and Heitor Villalobos’s “Prelude No. 3.”