Performance Saturday, December 1, 2012 | 9 PM

Chucho Valdés Quintet

Zankel Hall
Multi–Grammy Award winner Chucho Valdés is Cuba’s musical ambassador to the world. He brings his quintet to Zankel Hall for an evening of jazz.

This concert is part of Late Nights at Zankel Hall.

Chucho Valdés, ganador de múltiples premios Grammy y embajador mundial de la música cubana, se presenta con su quinteto en el Zankel Hall para ofrecer una singular noche de jazz.

Este concierto es parte de Late Nights en Zankel Hall.

Ganhador de vários prêmios Grammy, Chucho Valdés é o embaixador musical de Cuba para o mundo e aparece com o seu quinteto no Zankel Hall para uma noite inesquecível de jazz.

Este concerto faz parte de Late Nights em Zankel Hall.


  • Chucho Valdés Quintet
    ·· Chucho Valdés, Piano
    ·· Yaroldy Abreu Robles, Percussion
    ·· Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé, Bata Drum and Vocals
    ·· Rodney Yllarza Barreto, Drums
    ·· Angel Gaston Joya Perellada, Bass


  • Chucho Valdés

    At the age of 70, with more than a half-century of innovation behind him, Chucho Valdés would be forgiven if he chose to sit back and relax. But that's precisely what the renowned Cuban pianist, composer, and bandleader is not doing. Instead, Valdés-winner of five Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards-has been touring almost constantly. He has played more live shows than at any other time in his career-more than 120 concerts in 2011-2012 alone-touching down in locales from Argentina to Australia, Cuba to Colombia.

    Throughout his current tour, Valdés's new quintet-featuring Yaroldy Abreu Robles (percussion), Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé (batá drum and vocals), Rodney Yllarza Barreto (drums), and Angel Gaston Joya Perellada (bass)-debuts music that will be included on the pianist's forthcoming CD.

    "Playing in the quintet, almost all the responsibility is on the piano, which has to become the orchestra,'" Valdés says, "so it's more complicated work for me, but very exciting!" About his US tour, he says, "The whole show will have a very different sound because the new musicians play differently and think differently, rhythmically speaking. That has completely changed the sound of the quintet. The whole feel is more contemporary."

    Valdés's new sound will be apparent on the new studio recording, due for release next spring. The eagerly awaited release is the follow-up to 2010's Chucho's Steps, which won a Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album and received universally glowing reviews.

    For the as-yet-untitled CD-to be released by Four Quarters in the US-Valdés expands his stylistic palette beyond the realm of Latin jazz by moving closer to the roots of Afro-Cuban music (including Yoruba chanting), while also incorporating elements of flamenco and Indian music. Using a streamlined ensemble and placing his piano-playing front-and-center, Valdés's new music promises to be some of the most engaging and exciting of his lengthy career.

    That career began humbly when a young Chucho began taking piano lessons from his father, the pioneering Cuban bandleader Bebo Valdés. Chucho's natural affinity for the instrument led him to the Municipal Music Conservatory of Havana, where he graduated at the age of 14. After achieving success with various bands, he formed Irakere in 1973. The multifaceted group became an international success, winning a Grammy in 1979. Turning solo in the 1980s, Valdés has remained Latin jazz royalty.

    With a new album arriving soon, worldwide touring, and endless energy and new ideas, Chucho Valdés enjoys that rare honor of being both a living legend and an enduring force of nature.

    More Info

Lead funding for Voices from Latin America is provided by grants from the Ford Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Sponsored, in part, by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and Mercantil Servicios Financieros.

Public support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Consulate General of Brazil in New York.


Chucho Valdes, Piano | Roman Filiu O'Reilly, Alto Saxophone | Irving Luichel Acao Tierra, Tenor Saxophone | Lazaro Rivero Alarcon, Bass | Ramses Rodriguez Baralt, Drums
Blue Note

Fernando González on Chucho Valdés

Some of the concerts of the 1978 Newport Jazz Festival took place at Carnegie Hall, including an evening that featured three pianists: Mary Lou Williams, McCoy Tyner, and Bill Evans. And then, unannounced, an 11-piece Afro-Cuban jazz-rock band from Cuba called Irakere walked on stage, led by pianist-arranger-composer Chucho Valdés. It was a stunning, breathtaking performance. The following year, a live recording of that night won a Grammy.

Much has happened since. Despite many personnel changes over the years, Irakere became a musical institution, some of its members—such as trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera—having long since become stars in their own right. And while he still nominally led Irakere until 1998, Valdés also developed a stellar career of his own, both as a solo artist and leading small groups. Regardless the setting, certain strands still run through his music, most notably his exploration of Afro-Cuban rhythms.

While stressing their common root, in an interview Valdés once made an intriguing distinction between Latin jazz and Afro-Cuban jazz. "I consider Afro-Cuban music to be more closely connected to African music, especially to Santería," he told the late writer and poet Zoe Anglesey. "Latin music is thought to be closer to the roots of the son, an Afro-Cuban musical genre that originated at the turn of the century."

In his most recent work, Chucho's Steps (2010), leading a group he called the Afro-Cuban Messengers, Valdés glanced back at his work with Irakere (including directly quoting one of his classic arrangements), paid tribute to his influences, and suggested a path forward, especially regarding his work with Afro-Cuban rhythms.

"With Irakere, there was a period of experimentation, of finding how to mix Yoruba rhythms [from the music in the liturgy of the Afro-Cuban religion known in the United States as Santería] and adapt them to Cuban dance music and jazz," he explained in a recent conversation. "Now I have retaken that storyline, but with a different focus. In Irakere, we treated those rhythms in standard, conventional [ways] … now, instead of using regular time signatures, I'm using odd meters—5/4, 7/8, or 11/4. And then I started to mathematically mix those with regular meters. You can feel the accents changing. The [rhythmic] sequence might be the same, but it changes completely with the accents and the different meters. It's a deeper work than we used to do—but then again, many years have passed."

In the 1950s, his father—the great pianist and bandleader Bebo Valdés—pioneered the use in popular music of the batá, the double-headed drum used in Afro-Cuban religious ceremonies. Chucho put his own spin to the idea in Jazz Batá, a 1972 piano jazz-trio album that featured a batá drum in place of the standard drum kit. It foreshadowed his work with Irakere and what has since followed.

Last January, Valdés returned to Carnegie Hall, this time leading his Afro-Cuban Messengers. Tonight, he features yet a different lineup, a hornless group that comprises members of his Messengers with new players. It's also a quintet that features three percussionists, suggesting yet another setting for Valdés to explore an endlessly fascinating subject.

In Cuban culture "we have very rich African rhythms and a great variety of drums and percussion [instruments]," Valdés says. "Of course, we didn't discover that. People like Mario Bauzá, Machito, and Chano Pozo had already done that, but we wanted to take it in another direction … and that's what we did."

—Fernando González is an independent music writer and critic whose work appears regularly in The Miami Herald, JazzTimes, and The International Review of Music.
Program Notes


Chucho Valdés on his development of Afro-Cuban music.

Osvaldo Golijov on the fluidity between high and low art in Latin America.

Chucho Valdés performs with the seminal Irakare.

Chucho Valdés performs "El Manicero."

An Introduction to Voices from Latin America

This performance is part of The Shape of Jazz, and Voices from Cuba.

Part of