50 000 LBP, 75 000 LBP, 100 000 LBP
Patti Smith
Nuit Blanche 2008
Vaya Con Dios
Chucho Valdes and Michel Legrand
Return of the Phoenix
Chucho Valdés | Michel Legrand




Chucho Valdés was born in the Quivicán Province of Havana, Cuba in 1941, the son of Pilar Rodriguez and Bebo Valdés, a renowned Cuban pianist and composer.  He began to play the piano at the age of three; when he turned 5, he went on to study with the illustrious Professor Oscar Muñoz Boufartique. At the age of 8, he enrolled officially at the Municipal Conservatory, graduating eventually in piano, theory and solfa. When he turned 14, Chucho started studying with Zenaida Romeu, Rosario Franco and Leo Brower. He started his first jazz trio at the age of 15, accompanied by Emilio del Monte and Luis Rodriguez. Parallel to his activities as trio leader, he played in his father’s Sabor de Cuba Orchestra until the year 1961.

Between 1961 and 1963 Chucho played at the Salón Internacional of the Havana Riviera Hotel. He recorded his first record, entitled Chucho Valdés y su Combo, in 1963. He also played piano with the Orchestra of the Musical Theater of Havana, under the direction of Tony Taño.

In 1964, the Chucho Valdes trio incorporated a singer called Amado Borcelá, better known as Guapacha; the band’s new recordings opened a new direction in Cuban popular music, and eventually paved the way for the creation of Irakere. This new group also incorporated Carlos Emilio Morales (guitar) and Paquito D' Rivera (saxophone and clarinet).

In 1967 Chucho, along with Carlos Emilio and Paquito, joined the Cuban Modern Music Orchestra. The Irakere quintet took its first tentative steps in 1970, at the Jamboree Jazz Festival in Poland, with Chucho conducting and Dave Brubeck looking on admiringly; Chucho suddenly found himself showered in praise, and considered alongside Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea as one of the most talented Jazz pianists in the world. In 1972, Chucho decided to enlarge the trio, swelling its numbers with percussionists Carlos D' Puerto and Oscar Valdés, and recording “Jazz Batá”; this was an important musical milestone, one that effectively marked the coming into full-fledged existence of the Irakere group in 1973, considered to this day the most important ensemble in the history of Cuban music in the second half of the 20th century.

Irakere initially consisted of Carlos D' Puerto (bass), Oscar Valdés (percussion and vocals), Tato (congas), Carlos Emilio Morales (guitar), Jorge Varona (trumpet), Paquito D' Rivera (saxophone) and Chucho Valdes (piano, composer, arranger and director). The band later expanded to include Carlos Averhoff (saxophone), Arturo Sandoval (trumpet) and Arming Cuervo (backing vocals). The initial Irakere line-up was maintained until 1980. 

Irakere was the first Cuban group to obtain the prestigious Grammy Award, in 1980.

Chucho has performed on stage in more than 50 countries, playing live in venues as varied as the Carnegie Hall Foyer, the Kennedy and Lincoln centers, the Hollywood Bowl, Blue Note NY, the Village Vanguard, the Theater Colón of Buenos Aires, and many others. He has laid down on record an estimated number of 52 records. In 1996, Chucho Valdes joined young musician Roy Hargrove, and together they formed the band “Cresol”, enlisting in its ranks a host of important musicians from Puerto Rico, the USA and Cuba, and recorded the track “Havana”, for which they received a Grammy Award.

Along his memorable career, Chucho has played with such illustrious figures as Herbie Hancock, Kenny Barron, Michel Legrand, Frank Emilio, Michael Camilo, Chick Corea, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Branford and Wynton Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Joe Lovano, Grover Washington Jr., Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Taj Mahal, Max Roach, Jack DeJohnette, Ron Carter and Gato Barbieri, as well as the Lincoln Center Big Band, the Village Vanguard Orchestra, John Clayton’s Big Band and the Orchestra of Machito.  In 1997 he received the Doctorate Honoris Causes from the University of Victory, Canada

In 1998, while still leading the Irakere band, Chucho brought together a quartet operating from a different musical concept, one where the piano carries the voice of the singer, rather than leading. This quartet recorded for Blue Note Records, and released four records under the famous label’s aegis: Bele Bele in HavanaBriyumba Palo Congo, Live at the Village Vanguard and New Conceptions.

All four albums were nominated for a Grammy Award, while two of them received it. Chucho Valdes went on to record three albums for Blue Note under his own name; Solo Piano, Live in New York and Cuban Fantasy, 2 of which were nominated for the Grammies. He eventually received the Grammy Award for his Canciones Inéditas, an album consisting entirely of piano solos, released by Egrem Records.

To this day, Chucho Valdes has received 14 nominations and 5 Grammy Awards. He was offered the keys to the cities of Ponce (Puerto Rico), Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans and Madison, in the United States. He was inducted into the Hall of the Fame of Latin American Jazz alongside Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and Lalo Schifrin. His native country has honored him with the National Prize of Music, the Doctorate Honoris Causes in Arts from the Higher Institute of Art of Havana, the Distinction for Pedagogical Merit from the Higher Institute of Art, as well as the Félix Varela Medal, the highest distinction ever awarded in Cuban Culture.
Chucho Valdes has recently started preparations for a grandiose new project, an opera entitled Obatalá.


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