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Chucho Valdés: Master of Afro-Cuban Jazz

Chucho Valdés returns to Carnegie Hall for two concerts as part of Voices from Latin America—of which he is one of the four artistic advisors. On December 1, he performs in Zankel Hall as part of his Chucho Valdés Quintet. December 4 promises to be a very special night of music when pianists Egberto Gismonti, Danilo Pérez, and Gonzalo Rubalcaba join Valdés for the first time in a celebration of Afro-Cuban jazz.

At 71, Valdés is today’s most important ambassador for Afro-Cuban jazz. Throughout his long and illustrious career, he has immersed himself in Latin jazz as well as traditional Cuban folk music, building on the rich musical legacy of his island nation and recasting Afro-Cuban jazz for a contemporary audience. Valdés is musical royalty; his father, Bebo, was a legendary pianist in his own right and in the 1950s was orchestra director at Havana's famed Tropicana nightclub. Chucho himself came to fame as a leader of the legendary Latin jazz group Irakere.

This group was at the vanguard of a new wave of Cuban bands in the 1970s and '80s that mixed jazz, Afro-Cuban folkloric music, Cuban dance music, funk, and classical music to create something completely new and fresh. Since leaving Irakere in the 1990s, Valdés has pursued a successful career as a solo performer and with Afro-Cuban Messengers and his quintet.

Below, enjoy Chucho Valdés speaking about his role in the development of Afro-Cuban jazz and live performances by Irakere.

Voices from Latin America Artistic Advisor Chucho Valdés on his development of Afro-Cuban jazz.

Aguanile Bonco

Although the video and audio are slightly out of sync in this archival footage, this performance by Irakere of "Aguanile Bonco" captures the disparate rhythms, roots, virtuosity, and excitement generated during the band's live appearances.

Juana 1600

Irakere's signature deep integration of the batá drums, sekere, and African rhythms is clearly on display, with the entire first minute of this "Juana 1600" footage featuring only drums before the first notes of the electric bass enter.

December 1, Chucho Valdés Quintet
December 5, Egberto Gismonti | Danilo Pérez | Gonzalo Rubalcaba | Chucho Valdés
Voices from Latin America
Voices from Latin America: Cuba
Voices from Latin America: Afro-Cuban Jazz

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