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Musical World

Chucho Valdes

  • Composer
  • Jazz
  • Pianist


At 3 years old, Chucho Valdes could already play the melodies he heard on the radio by ear using both hands in any key. And at age 5, Chucho began piano, theory and solfègelessons with professor Oscar Muñoz Boufartique, finishing his studies at the Municipal Music Conservatory of Havana at the age of 14. All the while taking private lessons in piano and composition with such noted teachers as Zenaida Romeu, Rosario Franco, Federico Smith and Leo Brouwer.


At the age of 15 Chucho Valdes formed his first Jazz Trio with Emilio del Monte and Luis Rodríguez and went on to work as pianist in the Deauville and St. John Hotels in Havana and played with the “SABOR DE CUBA” Orchestra directed by his father, accompanying important singers of the time like Rolando Laserie, Fernando Alvarez and Pio Leyva.


Between1961 and 1963 Chucho Valdes worked as pianist at the Martí Theatre, International Salon of the Havana Riviera Hotel and at the Musical Theatre of the Havana Orchestra. At Leo Brouwer recommendation, he simultaneously created his Combo that in 1965 added the singer Amado Borcela, better known as “Guapachá”, paving the way for a new era of Cuban Popular Music.  This Combo was like Irakere´s preamble where many of the founders came together.  In 1967 he started with the Cuban Modern Music Orchestra under the direction of Armando Romeu and Rafael Somavilla, and became the group leader before long.  In1970 he debuted his Combo in a quintet format at the Jamboree International Jazz Festival in Poland, marking the first time a Cuban group participated in a jazz festival abroad and giving Chucho international recognition as one of the 5 greatest piano players in the world along with Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea.


In 1972 after recording the LP “JAZZ BATA” with Carlos del Puerto and Oscar Valdés, Chucho Valdes decided to add a brass section and drums to his Combo.  It was then, in 1973, that he founded “IRAKERE”, widely recognized as the most important group in Cuban Musical history in the second half of 20th century.  An explosive mixture of jazz, rock, classical and traditional Cuban Music, “IRAKERE” produced a sound that had never been heard before, that revolutionized Latin music.


In 2006, in a ceremony held at the Vatican, Chucho Valdes was named Good Will Ambassador by the Food and Agricultural Association of the United Nations and gives annual benefit concerts in Havana every October 16th—World Food Day.


In 2009 Chucho Valdes formed “Chucho Valdés & the Afro-Cuban Messenger”.  The group tours internationally and recorded Chucho’s most recent release, “Chucho’s Steps” (2011).