Chévere de Chicago
Founded by Costa Rican native Alejo Poveda 36 years ago as an all-percussion ensemble, Chévere de Chicago has endured changing tastes and trends to remains one of Chicago’s most popular and acclaimed Latin jazz bands. The group has steadily opened its sound to incorporate global influences from the Caribbean and South America as well as the blues, while retaining the high-energy sizzle of fusion, the concision of pop-rock, and the improvisational fire of jazz. The group members are in constant demand as session pros and important sideman in a dizzying variety of groups around the country, so despite its long history, Chévere shows are a relative rarity these days, which makes this Chicago Jazz Festival performance all the more special.
The group’s percussion roots provide the music’s foundation—and the drummers still sometimes step out on their own with exhilarating polyrhythmic breakdowns—but by and large the arrangements are multifaceted affairs, with effervescent melodic shapes forming intricate patterns against the irresistible grooves. Joining Poveda are fellow percussionists Ruben Alvarez and Joe Rendon (who both add occasional vocals), bassist Eric Hochberg, keyboardist Chris “Chicago Hambone” Cameron, trumpeter, Mark Ohlsen, guitarist Ernie Denov, reedist Steve Eisen, pianist and harmonica master Howard Levy (who’s also a regular member of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones), and guest trumpeter Orbert Davis.