JazzTimes - 12/99, p.172
"...richly compelling....the fire is delivered in bracing doses throughout."
Full performer name: Chucho Valdes & Irakere.
Chucho Valdes & Irakere: Jesus "Chucho" Valdes (piano); Jose Miguel (vocals, timbales); Maikel Ante (vocals); Carlos Emilio Morales, Jorge Luis Valdes Chicoy (guitar); Roman Filiu (alto saxophone); Irving Michel Acao (tenor saxophone); Basilio Marquez, Julio Padron (trumpet); Jorge Reyes (bass); Enrique Pla (drums); Adel Gonzalez (congas).
Grupo De Lazaro Ros: Lazaro Ros (vocals); Alexander Martinez, Rodelio Ruiz, Jose Pablo Hernandez (drums); Reinaldo Delgado, Maria Del Carmen Argudin, Lazaro Campillo (background vocals).
Recorded at EGREM Studios, Havana, Cuba in 1997. Includes liner notes by Leonardo Acosta, David Penalosa, Jimmy Durchslag, Fernando Penalosa & Nero Alejandro Capote.
BABALU AYE was nominated for a 1999 Grammy for Best Tropical Latin Performance.
Could there possibly be a more thrilling, original salsa-jazz band than Cuba's Irakere? At 57, bandleader/pianist extraordinaire Jesus "Chucho" Valdes lays another heavy one on the public (thankfully) with BABALU AYE, titled after the mythical Afro-Cuban deity that smites all suffering among the Arara people and delivers joy in its place. Continuing to ride on the cutting edge of tradition and contemporary sensibility, the band combines romantic, blistering horn passages and traditional bata drumming with zestful group harmonies, unrelenting electric guitar solos and Chucho's signature jazz-informed keyboard work.
It's as if the band is leading a battlefield charge on the dance floor-bound opening track. Jose Miguel introduces his honey-laced vocal acrobatics to the pulse of Jorge Reyes' giant-sized bass lines and swirl of dizzyingly executed lines by the horns. "Feliz Cumpleanos" is a sweet wish for a birthday a la Cubana that, with its happy melodies and group vocal declarations, leave a party in the listener's head regardless of the where the calendar lies. The title track opens on an ethereal note, leading to the sounds of the bata drum and a sacred Yoruba chant led by legend Lazaro Ros.