Winner of five Grammy Awards and Three Latin Grammy Awards
The Cuban pianist, composer and arranger Chucho Valdés from Havana, Cuba is the most influential figure in modern Afro-Cuban jazz. He has performed all over the world in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Centre and the Hollywood Bowl and has shared the stage with such musical luminaries as Herbie Hancock, Billy Taylor, Chick Corea, Gonzalo Rubalcab, Brandford and Wynton Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Grover Washington Jr., Dizzy Gillespie, Taj Mahal, and Tito Puente to name but a few.
His most recent work, Border-Free, features eight pieces -- all but one new originals -- and it’s another example of Valdés’ musical pursuit, one in which the conventional limits of styles and traditions blur and disappear. On this recording, Valdes is again featured with his Afro-Cuban Messengers, and the compositions include nods to flamenco, the Gnawa music of Morocco and the ritual rhythms of the Orishas, the deities of the Afro-Cuban Santería religion. There are mentions of hard-bop and danzón but also echoes of Bach, Rachmaninoff and Miles Davis -- and yet the sum total is a deeply personal and open-ended sound. And it’s all Chucho Valdés.
Dionisio Jesús "Chucho" Valdés Rodríguez, was born in a family of musicians in Quivicán, Havana province, Cuba, October 9, 1941. His first teachers were his father, the pianist, composer and bandleader Ramón “Bebo” Valdés, and his mother Pilar Rodríguez, who sang and played the piano. At the age of three, Chucho already played at the piano, using both hands, in any key, melodies he heard on the radio. In fact, there is a famous anecdote that tells the story of Bebo tricking his friend, the late Israel “Cachao” Lopez, about checking out, with his back to the player, “a young North American pianist.” Chucho was then four years old.
At home he played jazz: the music of Ellington, Count Basie, and Glenn Miller’s band. I’ve been privileged. Because Bebo was the piano player at the Tropicana I could see true legend of jazz in person. He took me to see Nat King Cole, Errol Garner and Sarah Vaughan when I was child studying music. You can’t imagine the effect that had on my life! It was enormous! Magical!
In 2012, Chucho reorganized his Afro-Cuban Messengers which currently feature Yaroldy Abreu, percussion, Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé , batá drums and voice; Reinaldo Melián, trumpet, Gastón Joya, bass and Rodney Barreto, drums.