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One of the leading lights of Afro-Cuban jazz, pianist and composer Chucho Valdés is probably best known as the co-founder of the formidable Cuban band Irakere. (His father is the wonderful nonagenarian pianist, Bebo Valdés; the two teamed up for Juntos Para Siempre in 2008.) On Chucho’s Steps, Valdés leads a medium-sized band with a name that tips its hat to Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. “Zawinul’s Mambo” is a tribute to pianist and composer Josef Zawinul that deftly alludes to the Austrian jazzman’s catchy melodic sense. The cut features a charged tenor sax solo by Carlos Miyares Hernández and Valdés’ piano statement is dazzling in its scope. The title track, in homage to one of Valdés’ influences, John Coltrane, is full of rich harmonies, exciting percussion, and also features finely focused playing by Miyares Hernández, trumpeter Reynaldo Melián Álvarez, and the bandleader. Another standout is “Yansa,” whose title refers to a Yoruba deity. Here the band is joined by Batá drummer and vocalist Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé and a traditional vocal choir.


Born: October 9, 1941 in Quivican, Cuba

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Cuban pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger Chucho Valdes is a highly accomplished and influential figure in the world of Latin and Afro-Cuban jazz. Born in Quivican in 1941, Valdes is the son of the similarly influential Cuban bandleader Bebo Valdes from whom Chucho first received piano lessons. Having exhibited musical talent from a young age, Valdes eventually enrolled in the Municipal Music Conservatory of Havana, graduating at age 14. Inspired by such jazz pianists as Art Tatum and Thelonious...
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Chucho's Steps, Chucho Valdés
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