The 2018 Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement honoree and his powerful band previewed the new album "Jazz Batá 2" at the Barcelona Jazz Festival.
Chucho Valdés’ opening concert at Barcelona’s Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival celebrated both his new album, Jazz Batá 2, and the centennial of the birth of his father, Bebo Valdés. Near the end of the show, the renowned Cuban pianist -- who will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award during a private ceremony before next week’s Latin Grammys -- was encircled by his musicians onstage. Wearing a Kangol cap and silk scarf that complemented his print shirt, the towering Valdés stepped away from the keys to join the band in a jubilant dance that traced the steps of African religious ritual’s journey into popular Cuban music.
In the center of this on-stage rumba were the batá of the album’s title, a set of three progressively-sized two-headed drums that were being played together by one musician, Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé.
“It’s a unique sound,” says Bombalé, 41, who began learning the secrets of the batá at a young age in Cuba. He stresses that he is still learning. “The batá is very conversational,” he tells Billboard of the hour-glassed shaped drums, which play the rhythms used to call the pantheon of Afro-Cubans gods in ceremonies of the religion commonly known as Santería. Bombalé’s playing and chanting provoked a powerful call and response in the Yoruba language with some Cuban members of the audience at the Oct. 26 show at Barcelona’s Palau de la Música. Bombalé then left the stage and sang from the aisles at the grand Catalan Modernist concert hall that is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.