Cuban pianist named 2019 Harvard Jazz Master-in-Residence
Pianist Chucho Valdés – six-time Grammy Award winner and three-time Latin Grammy Award Winner – has been named 2019 Jazz Master in Residence at Harvard University. The residency April 8-12, is sponsored by the Office for the Arts at Harvard and Harvard Jazz Bands (Yosvany Terry and Mark Olson, conductors), in partnership with the Cuba Studies Program at the David Rockefeller Center at Harvard University.
These events are made possible in part through the support of the Richard J. Scheuer, Jr. Fund administered by the Office for the Arts at Harvard.
In addition to working and rehearsing with Harvard Jazz Bands, Valdés will participate in a two events that are open to the public:
Thursday, April 11, 12 p.m., Leverett Library Theater, 25 Mill St.
Chucho Valdés: Musical Narratives, a conversation about a life in the arts and about jazz music featuring pianist and composer Chucho Valdés and Harvard Jazz Band director and senior lecturer in music Yosvany Terry. The event, presented by the Cuba Studies Program at the DRCLAS, is free and open to the public and will be presented in Spanish.
Friday, April 12, 8 p.m. Sanders Theatre, 25 Quincy St.
Puente Musical: Celebrating Chucho Valdés, a concert featuring the Harvard Jazz Bands and guest bassist Yunior Terry with 2019 Harvard Jazz Master Chucho Valdés. Tickets will be available through the Harvard Box Office at the Smith Campus Center, online at Harvard Box Office and by calling 617.496.2222. (Phone and online orders subject to service fees.) Free parking is available at the Broadway Garage, 7 Felton St. For more information, call 617.495.8676.
About Chucho Valdés
The Cuban pianist, composer and arranger Chucho Valdés is one of the most influential figures in modern Afro-Cuban jazz. Born into a family of musicians in Quivicán, Havana province, Cuba, 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 3, Valdés was 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 5, and continued his formal musical education at the Conservatorio Municipal de Música de la Habana, from which he graduated at 14. A year later, Valés formed his first jazz trio and, in 1959, 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.
Watch a video of Chucho Valdés Quartet at the 2018 Panama Jazz Festival.
Valdés 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 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 U.S. 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. Valdés stayed with Irakere until 2005.
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 — Valdés launched a parallel career as a solo player and small-group leader.
Read Nate Chinen's New York Times story about Valdés.
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, Valdés 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.
About the OFA Jazz Program
The OFA Jazz Program, together with the Harvard Jazz Bands, brings artists of distinction in this uniquely American art form to Harvard. Whether world-renowned masters or emerging artists, they are honored and connected to students through clinics, rehearsals, and performance over a period of weeks. A remarkable array of significant artists, such as Benny Carter, Roy Haynes, Joe Lovano and Cassandra Wilson, has played with Harvard Jazz Bands over nearly five decades. The Monday Band is directed by Yosvany Terry; the Sunday Band by Mark Olson. The OFA maintains a recording archive (search for "Jazz Office for the Arts") of visiting artists in jazz, which is available to students and scholars through the Morse Music and Media Collection, Lamont Library. "The Tom Everett Collection of Jazz Manuscripts," at the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, houses works commissioned by the Harvard Jazz Bands. It is named for the long-time Harvard Bands Director and founder of Jazz at Harvard.