Other Free Encyclopedias » Brief Biographies » Biographies: Theodosius I to David Watmough Biography - David Watmough comments: » Jésus "Chucho" Valdés: 1941—: Musician Biography - Grew Up Around Jazz Greats, Became Known In United States, Hosted Radio Show

Jésus "Chucho" Valdés: 1941—: Musician - Grew Up Around Jazz Greats

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Born in Quivican, Havana, Cuba, on October 9, 1941, Jésus Valdés, called "Chucho," seemed destined for musical accomplishment. Not only was he the son of two musicians—Ramon "Bebo," and Pilar—his father happened to be a composer and casino owner who rubbed elbows with the early jazz greats. Because of his father's connection to the famous Tropicana club, Valdés became personally and musically acquainted with Buddy Rich, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn, Nat King Cole, Milt Jackson, and Ray Brown.

Valdés literally grew up at the piano, beginning at age three, and continuing on to train formally in classical piano at Havana's Municipal Conservatory. He credited his father with inadvertently inspiring his desire to compose by insisting on regular and accurate practice. During these hours, Valdés wondered why he would like playing one song and not another. Valdés told Down Beat, " I got to thinking that it was such a pity that sometimes songs that started so nicely ended up making no sense. You have to respect what the composer wrote and what he wants, but I have to admit that when I was growing up I would change a lot of the music from how it was written."

At a Glance . . .

Born Jésus Valdés on October 9, 1941, in Quivican, Havana, Cuba; children: seven.

Career: Musician, 1957-; Orquesto Cubana de Musica Moderna, 1967-73; Irakere, 1973–; The Chucho Valdés Three; The Chucho Valdés Quartet.

Awards: Grammy Awards, 1978, 1997; Grammy Nominations, 1994, 1998, 1999; Latin Jazz Album of the Year, Jazz Journalists' Association, 2000.

At the tender age of 16, Valdés formed a jazz trio. Two years later, he had two albums to his credit with RCA Victor. In 1965 he joined the Elio Reve Orquestra, and in 1967, Valdés formed the Orquestra de Musica Moderna. Out of this group came the widely-known Irakere in 1973. Two of the world-renowned musicians who once played in Irakere are Paquito D'Rivera, an original band-member, and Arturo Sandoval.

The word "irakere" is a Yoruba word which means "forest." The name was a tribute to the place known for producing Africa's legendary percussionists. Although the band members have changed over the years, Irakere remained together, and Valdés continued to be part of the group. Now headed by Valdés's son, Francisco, known as "Chuchito," Irakere fused African and Cuban music into a mix which included elements of rock, classical, jazz, and funk. In the late 1970s Irakere became the first Cuban group signed to an American recording label. The group's first album with Columbia earned them acclaim, including a Grammy Award.

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