Diego Figueiredo meets “Chuchito” Valdés at Flato Markham Theatre

Diego Figueiredo & Chuchito ValdésBrazil meets Cuba, a time for Markham and GTA residents to come in from the cold for what was promised to be some hot sounds on March 7, 2019. Flato Markham Theatre and Minken Employment Lawyers presents the All That Jazz series, featuring Diego Figueiredo and Jesus “Chuchito” Valdés. Billed as a meeting of two of the most exciting Latin jazz artists, creating an explosion of music.

The music they played, mostly Brazilian popular songs, the beginnings and the endings were recognizable. The middle, well that was open to interpretation and both of these talented individuals let loose with improvisational abandon. Songs such as “The Girl From Ipanema,” and “How Insensitive” by Antonio Carlos Jobim  as well as “Manhã De Carnaval” by Luiz Bonfá were performed.

Diego Figueiredo is a guitarist with a style that reminds me of some of the great Spanish classical and flamenco guitarists of the past, Segovia, Sabicas and Montoya come to mind. He strums the strings with fingers in that distinct Spanish style. He also plucks the strings with his fingers and thumb, to great effect. On closer examination of his right hand, I noticed he has very long nails and he seems to use a combination of a finger and pick style. Figueiredo can play, jazz, swinging with ease, or mellow, he can play fast and he can play in the nether regions of the guitar, up over the bridge. All of this with a beautiful sound and style all his own.

Chuchito Valdés is a pianist of extraordinary talent. His piano playing, a strong classically influenced style with jazz inflection and Cuban heritage is at once exciting and engaging. I was drawn in by his dynamic playing. His body is involved in the performance, he is intense and captivating. I await with trepidation the sight of him actually falling from the piano bench. He slides back and forth across the bench and the keys, he pounds on the keys and the body of the piano, he bounces up and down, only to dig deeper and finally leaps up and buries himself into the body of the piano to pluck or strum a string or two.

Diego Figueiredo was the spokesperson for the duo and started the concert by asking how the crowd was doing, “Everybody alright?”Upon the crowds enthusiastic response of, “Yea!” The duo launched into an upbeat Cuban son number that warmed the theatre and displayed the dynamism of the duo. Figueiredo was dancing in and out of his chair, leaning way back and pulling off impressive runs. Valdés matched him stride for stride, giving a wonderful display of piano virtuosity.

After two songs, Valdés departed leaving Figueiredo to perform solo. He would go on to play two songs, one original tune with a Samba feel, it had all the colours of Brazil and a cool beach like theme. He mentioned writing it while trying to warm his hands prior to a concert in Buffalo.

Chuchito Valdés returned to the stage for his solo portion of the concert, Figueiredo departed. His first number was recognizable as a classic Cuban song, very fast riffing, accentuated by powerful chord progressions. The second song, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” performed beautifully, with great sensitivity and passion. He played it peaceful and serene at some moments and energetic and urgent at other moments.

The duo came back together for one more number, a tango like affair to set the tone for an intermission. Upon retaking the stage, the same process was repeated with each artist taking solo numbers to finally bring the duo back for their finale. They played “Bésame Mucho”  and  then “Manhã De Carnaval”  that surprisingly morphed into “Stairway To Heaven.”

This was an enjoyable concert that hi-lighted two fantastic musicians who have a great chemistry. The audience would seem to have warmed up to the duo as the double encore confirmed. Here’s looking forward to more Latin musical treats at Flato Markham Theatre and the Minken Employment Lawyers, All That Jazz!

Photos by Atael Weissman

Paul J. Youngman
An independent journalist, based in Toronto, Canada. A professional musician and a fan of music, dance and the arts. I have written short stories, lyrics, poetry and reviews. I have been published in numerous online webzines. I’ve taught drumming and played in bands; I have felt the passion to create. I enjoy expressing that passion, the artistic experience, in words, reporting on the shows and musical experiences that I have witnessed.

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