Jesús “Chucho” Valdés at 80

Cuban pianist, composer, and arranger Chucho Valdés is considered the most influential figure in modern Afro-Cuban jazz. In a career spanning more than 60 years, both as a solo artist and bandleader, Mr. Valdés has distilled elements of the Afro-Cuban music tradition, jazz, classical music, rock, and more, into a deeply personal style. Winner of six GRAMMY® and four Latin GRAMMY® Awards, Mr. 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.

In November 2021, Chucho Valdés goes on a world tour featuring concerts with American jazz greats Dianne Reeves and Joe Lovano, evenings of solo piano, intimate shows with his Chucho Valdés quartet, and the debut of an Afro-Cuban suite performed by two dozen musicians.

La Creación / The Creation

The Cuban pianist, composer and arranger, celebrated his 80th birthday with the world premiere of La Creación [The Creation], at the Adrienne Arscht Center in Miami on November 5th, 2021. La Creación is his new work for big band, Afro-Cuban percussion and vocals. Performed with the Yoruban Orchestra, featuring Hilario Durán and John Beasley as musical directors, La Creación [a suite in three movements] explores the story of creation according to the Regla de Ocha, the Afro-Cuban religion known as Santería. It is an extraordinary testament to an extraordinary career.

“This new work represents the accumulation of all my experiences and everything I’ve learned in music,” says Valdés. “This is a moment of full maturity, personally and musically, and I feel prepared to do this work.”

La Creación represents a return to big-band sonorities for Valdés. The pieces include elements of Santería ritual music, African music, the blues and what Valdés describes as “an atmosphere in the style of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.”

“This work is very significant to me,” Valdés says. “I think it’s my masterpiece — so far.”

It uses many of the chants that are sung to the different saints in the Yoruban language, and some in Spanish, fused with jazz, with African music, with pure Caribbean rhythms and with the blues.

“La Creación” is played, also in November, at the Philharmonie de Paris,  and at the Barcelona Jazz Festival.

“I think this is my most important musical work ever because it brings together everything that I’ve learned in my life, and this is the ideal moment for its debut. It goes much deeper than anything I’ve done up until now” said Valdés.

Cuban pianist, composer, and arranger Chucho Valdés at 80
Cuban pianist, composer, and arranger Chucho Valdés at 80

On November 6th, 2021, Independent arts writer and editor, Fernando González, wrote on “The performance last night featured Valdés with his working group — Dafnis Prieto, drums; José Gola, acoustic and electric bass, and Roberto Vizcaíno Jr., percussion — expanded by the additions of Hilario Durán and John Beasley on keyboards and conducting (they also contributed arranging and orchestration), trumpeter Etienne Charles and members of the University of Miami Frost School of Music Henry Mancini Institute Big Band. It also included key contributions by a trio comprising Erick Barbería, Yosvany González Franco and Felipe “Coki” Sarria, on batá and vocals, and Yeni Valdés on vocals.”

Besides six Grammy Awards and four Latin Grammy‘s, Chucho Valdés has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. His name is in the Hall of Fame of Latin Composers.

Along a more than 60 years long career as a soloist of his orchestras, Chucho Valdés has learned how to blend to perfection, the elements from traditional afro-cuban music, with jazz, classic music, and rock’n’roll, all with a very personal style.

Valdés keeps on with his classes at his virtual academy of music, Academia Chucho Valdés,, a channel dedicated to share his knowledge of Cuban music and afro-cuban jazz, through individual classes taught by Zoom.

Before becoming a full-time piano performer, composer and arranger, Chucho had studied to become a teacher. His admiration for his uncle Emilio, who became an important educator in Cuba, and his early vocation, fulfilled his early years. But then came the music, and the chance to perform together with the orchestra of his father, the great pianist Bebo Valdés. His long lasting career started there, stepping up to the highest.

SOURCES (content and photos)

Danilo Navas
Founder, Editor, Webmaster: Latin Jazz Network, World Music Report, Toronto Music Report. A passionate and committed communicator with a sensibility for the arts based in Toronto, Canada.

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