In a career spanning more than 60 years, both as a solo artist and bandleader, the great Cuban pianist and composer Chucho Valdés has distilled elements of the Afro-Cuban music tradition, jazz, classical music, rock, and more, into a deeply personal style. Winner of seven GRAMMY® and four Latin GRAMMY® Awards, Valdés received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Science last year and was also inducted in the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame.
A protean performer, as comfortable offering solo performances as leading small and large ensembles, Chucho is also the co-author with pianist, composer and educator Rebeca Mauleón of “Decoding Afro-Cuban Jazz: The Music of Chucho Valdés & Irakere” (213 pages, Sher Music Co.) This tome includes an overview of Cuban music; biographical information; and a history of Chucho’s Irakere, a band that, with its bold fusion of Afro-Cuban ritual music, popular Afro- Cuban music styles, jazz and rock, marked a before and after in Latin jazz. The book also includes lead sheets of 11 of Chucho’s most notable compositions, including classics such as ”Misa Negra,” “Mambo Influenciado,” and “Bacalao Con Pan,” and a glossary of terms and Afro-Cuban rhythms.
A very active performer, Chucho recently completed a two-year tour with Trance, a two-piano duo project. Trance represented a dramatic change of sound for Chucho, as it followed the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the birth of Irakere, a group that for all intents and purposes, suggested a small big band. The extensive tour was highlighted by a live recording, Tribute to Irakere: Live at Marciac (Jazz Village/Comanche Music), which won a GRAMMY for the Best Latin Jazz Album.
In 1998, having won his second GRAMMY the previous year for Habana, this time as a member of trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s group Crisol, Chucho launched a parallel career as a solo player and small-group leader. An enormously fruitful period followed, highlighted by albums such as Solo Piano, Solo: Live in New York, and New Conceptions, as well as quartet recordings such as Bele Bele en La Habana, Briyumba Palo Congo, and Live at the Village Vanguard, which won a GRAMMY for Best Latin Jazz Album.
Chucho has also won GRAMMYs for Juntos Para Siempre, the duet recording with his father, Bebo; and for Chucho’s Steps, which introduced his new group, the Afro-Cuban Messengers.
“As a pianist, composer and arranger, Chucho Valdés has become one of the most influential figures in modern Afro-Cuban jazz”— Billboard
“A pianist of imperial command, possessed of a dazzling, deceptively casual virtuosity” — The New York Times
“An encyclopedic vocabulary of Afro-Cuban rhythms and an expansive palette that includes all manner of modern jazz as well as traditional classical repertoire” — The Boston Globe
“El maestro Chucho Valdés is one of the great treasures of the music world… Valdés grounds his work in the aural history of mother Cuba, while seamlessly weaving in aspects of folk, jazz and classical to create a singular musical vision” — Downbeat