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Thursday, April 18, 2013

2013 Wellington Jazz Festival on Cuba (6-8 June) is not too far away so it’s time we started taking a closer look at the programme.

Let's take a looke at two upcoming acts: profiling Chucho Valdés and MANTIS: The Music of Drew Menzies,
  Hailed as “the dean of Latin jazz” and “one of the world’s great virtuosic pianists” by The New York Times, multi-Grammy Award winner Chucho Valdés has recorded over 80 CDs during his illustrious career, performed in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Centre and the Hollywood Bowl, and joined countless jazz masters on stage - including Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis and Chick Corea.

Born in 1941 in Havana, Cuba, Valdés began his musical life at home under the direction of his parents. His mother Pilar Rodríguez was a singer and piano teacher and his father, the great Bebo Valdés. At three years old, Valdés could already play the melodies he heard on the radio by ear using both hands in any key.

Valdés' headline WJF act with the Afro-Cuban Messengers is his first ever New Zealand performance – “a once in a lifetime opportunity for Kiwi audiences” says WJF Artistic Director Shelagh Magadza. “Chucho Valdés is unique in that he has invented his own special sound. He’s one of those granddaddies of jazz – I'm really looking forward to seeing him perform.”

Book tickets to see Chucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers

Find out more about Chucho Valdés on his website.

      The WJF performance of MANTIS: The Music of Drew Menzies is not just an album launch – it’s the culmination of years of hard work and collaboration in celebration of one of New Zealand's best jazz and classical double bassists: Drew Menzies (1976-2007).

Jazz Notes caught up with MANTIS drummer and arranger Reuben Bradley recently to get a low-down on the project.

“MANTIS was one of Drew’s nicknames”, says Reuben. “He had these long gangly limbs and powerful fingers – and he wrapped himself around the double pass like a contortionist! We couldn’t resist giving the album his name.”

Drew stood out for other reasons too. His ability to perform both jazz and classical double bass to a very high level and his flair for composition drew enormous respect, not least from John Psathas who worked on the string arrangements for the album and introduced the New Zealand String Quartet to the mix.

The project took life after Reuben was handed a mountain of manuscripts bought back from Drew’s home in the US by his parents. “I kept saying to myself: someone's got to do something for Drew’s music,” says Reuben. “Gradually it dawned on me that that someone was me.” Picking through the many pages of Drew's music, Reuben began to collate a list of pieces that he felt truly summed up Drew’s sound, finally settling on the nine pieces you can hear in the MANTIS album.

Although some of Drew’s compositions were recorded, unfortunately those tracks were lost post-production. The MANTIS album is the only known recording of these manuscripts and the concert is the first time the music will be played live in its entirety.

Book tickets to see MANTIS: The Music of Drew Menzies

Purchase the MANTIS album online (proceeds go to the 'Drew Menzies Memorial Scholarship for young Double Bass players')

Find out more about MANTIS: The Music of Drew Menzies on Reuben Bradley’s website

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