A protean performer, as comfortable offering solo performances as leading small and large ensembles, his most recent project, Jazz Batá 2, is an exceptional work in which he revisits an idea he first explored in 1972: a piano jazz trio featuring batá drums in place of the conventional trap set. The batá are the sacred, hourglass shaped drums used in the ritual music of the Yoruba religion, better known as Santeria. Released on November 16, 2018, Jazz Batá 2 marks Chucho’s debut on Mack Avenue Records.
A few days earlier, on November 13, Chucho received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences™ in a ceremony held during Latin GRAMMY week in Las Vegas. Chucho was also inducted in the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame, and received a DC Jazz Festival Lifetime Achievement Award, his name joining an illustrious list that includes Kenny Barron, James Moody, Ellis Marsalis, George Wein, and Dave Brubeck. Also, Chucho enjoyed another type of honor, personally satisfying as pianist and performer, as he debuted in the historic Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow, last March.
Finally, in August, Chucho and pianist, composer and educator Rebeca Mauleón presented “Decoding Afro-Cuban Jazz: The Music of Chucho Valdés & Irakere” (213 pages, Sher Music Co.) This tome includes an overview of Cuban music; biographical information; and a history of Chucho’s Irakere, a band that, with its bold fusion of Afro-Cuban ritual music, popular Afro- Cuban music styles, jazz and rock, marked a before and after in Latin jazz. The book also includes lead sheets of 11 of Chucho´s most notable compositions, including classics such as ”Misa Negra,” “Mambo Influenciado,” and “Bacalao Con Pan,” and a glossary of terms and Afro-Cuban rhythms.
A very active performer, in early 2018 Chucho completed a two-year tour with Trance, a two-piano duo project. Trancerepresented a dramatic change of sound for Chucho, as it followed the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the birth of Irakere, a group that for all intents and purposes, suggested a small big band. The extensive tour was highlighted by a live recording,Tribute to Irakere: Live at Marciac (Jazz Village / Comanche Music), which won a Grammy for the Best Latin Jazz Album in 2016.
Born in a family of musicians in Quivicán, Havana province, Cuba, on October 9, 1941, Dionisio Jesús “Chucho” Valdés Rodríguez, has distilled elements of the Afro-Cuban music tradition, jazz, classical music, rock and more, into an organic, personal style that has both, a distinct style and substance. His first teacher was his father, the great pianist, composer and bandleader Ramón “Bebo” Valdés. By the age of three, Chucho was already playing the melodies he heard on the radio at the piano, using both hands and in any key. He began taking lessons on piano, theory and solfege at the age of five and continued his formal musical education at the Conservatorio Municipal de Música de la Habana, from which he graduated at 14. A year later, he formed his first jazz trio and in 1959 he debuted with the orchestra Sabor de Cuba, directed by his father. Sabor de Cuba is considered one of the great orchestras in modern Cuban music history. As it turns out, Chucho is perhaps best known as the founder, pianist and main composer and arranger of yet another landmark ensemble in Cuban music: Irakere (1973-2005). Not well known outside Cuba, Irakere was discovered by Dizzy Gillespie, who was visiting Havana on a jazz cruise, in 1977. The following year, producer Bruce Lundvall, then president of CBS, went to Cuba on Dizzy´s advice, heard the band live and signed it on the spot.
The same year Irakere debuted, unannounced, as “surprise guests,” at Carnegie Hall as part of the Newport Jazz Festival. Selections from that performance were later included in Irakere (CBS), the band’s debut recording in the United States. The album won a Grammy as Best Latin Recording in 1979. That original band featured future global jazz stars such as Paquito D’Rivera and Arturo Sandoval, but over its rich, long life, Irakere became a rolling university of Afro-Cuban music while also featuring influential musicians such as the late Miguel “Angá” Díaz; Jose Luis Cortés (who would later found NG La Banda) and Germán Velazco.
Chucho stayed with Irakere until 2005.
Through the many changes the band experienced over the years, he remained the one, essential constant. But Irakere’s success had its personal costs, as Chucho’s talent as a pianist was largely obscured by his responsibilities as a leader.
In 1998 — having won his second Grammy the previous year for Habana (Verve), this time as a member of trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s group Crisol — Chucho launched a parallel career as a solo player and small-group leader.
An enormously fruitful period followed, highlighted by albums such as Solo Piano (Blue Note, 1991), Solo: Live in New York (Blue Note, 2001) and New Conceptions (Blue Note, 2003), as well as quartet recordings such as Bele Bele en La Habana (Blue Note, 1998), Briyumba Palo Congo (Blue Note, 1999) and Live at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 2000), which won a Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album.
Since, Chucho also won Grammys for Juntos Para Siempre (Calle 54, 2007), the duet recording with his father, Bebo; and for Chucho’s Steps (Comanche, 2010), which introduced his new group, the Afro-Cuban Messengers.
JOSE ALBERIO “EL CANARIO”
Jose Alberio “El Canario” (The Canary), multi Latin Grammy Nominee, amazed the Latin music scene with his exquisite voice and ability to use his highly melodious whistling skills as a soloing instrument. He is one of the most successful and respected artists in the Salsa music scene, with a recording history spanning into 40 years and 16 solo albums. Jose Alberto spent his childhood in Puerto Rico where he studied music at the Antilles Military Academy. Later he moved to New York, where he joined many local music bands as a percussionist and at the same time took advantage of the scene and showcased his exceptional unique voice, which later established him as a vocalist.
In 1974 he records his first single and in 1976 Jose Alberto made his inaugural recording as lead vocalist on the album “Curious” by Tito Rodriguez, Jr. Between 1978 and the early 80s be was lead vocalist with the grouJ1d-breaking ensemble Tipica 73. His recordings with Tipica 73 included; Salsa Encendida (1978), Charangueando con La Tipica 73 (1980), and Into the 80s (1981). He was also among the lead vocalists on Louie Ramirez’ production Noche Caliente, the first album to give popular Spanish ballads an up tempo salsa feel.
Jose Alberto El Canario formed bis own group in 1983 and recorded three albums on the Sono Max label titled Tipicamente (1984); Canta Canario (1985); and Latino Style (1986). Many of the tracks from these albums were among the favorite singles of the time, including Desesperado, La Cinta Verde and the international hit Rio Manzanare. In 1987 Jose Alberto became the first artist to record for the newly formed RMM label which catapult him internationally as a Solo artist. His first international smash-hit with RMM was in 1988 with Sueno Contigo. His glittering follow-up Mis Amores (1989) was also a chart topper. El Canario hasn’t slowed down since the 1990s. He recorded and co-produced several hit albums. Dance with Me (1991) produced by U-rammy Winner Sergio U-eorge followed by Llego la Hora with tracks Nada Se Compara Contigo y Disculpeme Senora also international hits, in 1992 Llego la Hora and De Pueblo y Con Clase (1994). Then (1995) he release On Time which features a duet with undisputed Queen of Salsa, the inunortal Celia Cruz, with whom he frequently toured.
Celia chose Jose Alberto for years as her favorite co-vocalist. In 1997 Jose Alberto recorded, Back to The Mambo Tributo a Machito, features guests Cirammy Winners the legendary, The King of Timbal, Tito Puente and Dave Valentin.
Jose Alberto worked with some of the most influential artists in tropical music. His productions have been co-produced by a list of high profiled composers and arrangers (winners and nominees of numerous awards such as Grammy); the 1naestro Isidro Infante, the maestro A 11gel Cuco Pena, Luis Perico Ortiz, the Maestro Tito Puente, Jose Febles, Manuel Jimenes. Paquito Pastor. Ricky Cionzalez, Ramon Sanchez, Omar Alfano, Amauri Ciutierrez, Mario Diaz among others.
In 2011, Jose Alberto El Canario proceeds to open his own independent record label, Los Canarios Music and releases his 1st production titled “Original” Limited Edition, which granted him a Latin Grammy Nomination for Best Salsa Album. The success of this release created a worldwide tour for two years. In 2012 he launched “Intimamente Salsero Live”, which is a Live compilation of some of his greatest hits. In 2014 he releases “Romantico & Rumberlo”. Jose Alberto meticulously took his time to select the songs on this grand production, which it is presently gaining much recognition on the National and International Latin radio, clubs and DJ’s.
In June 2015, Jose Alberto released under his label a production be co-produced with the world renown group el Septeto Santiaguero titled, Tributo a Los Compadres No Quiero Llanto. This majestic production counts with amazingly great featurings from some of Salsa top artists like: Andy Montanez, Oscar De Leon, Ismael Miranda, Eliades Ochoa, Aymee Nuviola, Tiburon Morales, Grupo Esencia and Edwin Bonilla. Tributo a Los Cornpadres No Quiero Llanto was nominated and won at the 16th Annual Latin Grammy Awards for Best Tropical Traditional album and, was nominated for Best Tropical Album at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards 2016.
Jose Alberto always delivers spine-tingling productions with exciting and diverse blend of new rhythms with the exhilarating characteristics Canario fans expect. Canario’s music is powerful, swinging and with his one of a kind voice, he delivers “salsa dura” at its best.
Jose Alberto recordings have been very successful which have earned numerous Gold and Platinum records, aside from very prestigious awards and recognition which very few selected Spanish artists receive.
WALTER SMITH III
From a young age, Walter began taking music very seriously. “My first gig was playing at a McDonalds in Houston with another saxophone player. I took a solo on “Blue Bossa.” It was terrible. People clapped, and I figured if I could get away with that and get applause, how could I fail?”
Although it may appear Smith is a new voice on the scene, he is widely recognized as an adept performer, accomplished composer, and inspired educator. Smith released his 5th album as a leader, “Twio” in February of 2018 with his longtime trio of Harish Raghavan and Eric Harland including guest appearances by Christian McBride and Joshua Redman.
In the Jazz tradition, Smith has developed under the wings of many of the music’s greats. Walter is/has been a member of several legendary groups (recording and/or touring) including the Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band, Terence Blanchard Quintet, Eric Harland’s “Voyager”, Jason Moran’s In My Mind:Monk at Town Hall, Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet, the Christian McBride “Situation”, Christian Scott group and the Sean Jones Quintet to name a few. Smith has performed all over the world participating in virtually every international festival as well as famed venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Village Vanguard, and the Kennedy Center. In addition, he has shared the stage and/or appeared on recordings with many Jazz notables including Mulgrew Miller, Eric Reed, Billy Childs, Joe Lovano, Herbie Hancock, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Terri Lynne Carrington, Bill Stewart, Ralph Peterson, and a host of others. To date, Walter has appeared on over 100 recordings that are released worldwide. Originally from Houston, TX, Smith now resides in Boston, MA and is Chair of Woodwinds at Berklee College of Music helping to prepare the next generation of Jazz students.
Educational Outreach: Walter is a Vandoren artist available for educational outreach in the form of:
- Guest Artist Appearances
- Educational Residencies
BERKLEE GLOBAL JAZZ INSTITUTE
The Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI) is a performance program designed to foster creativity and musicianship through various musical disciplines, with pianist and composer Danilo Pérez as its founder and artistic director.
The BGJI provides a comprehensive contemporary music environment where students are given opportunities to explore their creativity to the highest level possible, advance the power of music as a tool for the betterment of society, and connect musical creative thinking with the natural environment.
See the full Line-Up here, more bios coming soon!