Chucho Valdés Royal Quartet 

Chucho Valdés Royal Quartet 

Summer Series
Chucho Valdés

Date & Price

Sunday, August 25, 2024 at 7:30 pm

Open Air Theatre


Reserved Seating: $36-$56

Gardens Preferred, Gardens Premium Members, and Innovators: $31-$51

Ticket includes all-day Gardens Admission. Tickets limited. Sell out likely.

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Dionisio Jesús “Chucho” Valdés Rodríguez was born into a family of musicians in Quivicán, Havana province, Cuba. His first teacher was his father, the pianist, composer, and bandleader Ramón "Bebo" Valdés. By the age of three, Valdés was already playing, on the piano, melodies he heard on the radio—using both hands and in any key. He began taking lessons on piano, theory, and solfège at the age of five. He continued his formal musical education at the Conservatorio Municipal de Música de la Habana, from which he graduated at 14. A year later, Valdés formed his first jazz trio. In 1959, he debuted professionally with the band Sabor de Cuba. The ensemble, directed by his father, is widely considered one of the great orchestras in modern Cuban music.

Fittingly, Valdés made his early mark as the founder, pianist, and leading composer and arranger of another landmark ensemble: the small big band Irakere (1973–2005). With its audacious mix of Afro-Cuban ritual music, Cuban dance music, jazz, classical music, and rock, Irakere marked a before and after in Latin jazz. Irakere's self-titled debut recording in the United States won a Grammy for Best Latin Recording in 1979.  

While he remained with Irakere until 2005, Valdés launched a parallel career in 1998 both as a solo performer and a small-group leader. It marked the beginning of an enormously fruitful period highlighted by albums such as Solo Piano (Blue Note, 1991),  Solo: Live in New York (Blue Note, 2001), as well as quartet recordings such as Bele Bele en La Habana (Blue Note, 1998),  Briyumba Palo Congo (Blue Note, 1999), New Conceptions (Blue Note, 2003), and Live at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note, 2000), which won a Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album.

After leaving Irakere, Valdés also won Grammys for Juntos Para Siempre (Calle 54, 2007), the duet recording with his father, Bebo; and Chucho's Steps (Comanche, 2010), which introduced his new group, the Afro-Cuban Messengers.

But such success didn't mean forgetting past achievements. In 2015, Valdés celebrated the 40th anniversary of the birth of Irakere, his iconic band, with a world tour. Tribute to Irakere: Live at Marciac (Jazz Village / Comanche Music), which captured a performance on that tour, won a Grammy for the Best Latin Jazz Album in 2016. He also won a Latin Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album for Jazz Batá 2, in which Valdés revisited a revolutionary idea he first recorded in 1972: a piano jazz trio featuring batá drums.

In 2022, Valdés won a Grammy and a Latin Grammy for Mirror Mirror, an album of duets by pianist and singer Eliane Elias with Valdés and the great late pianist Chick Corea. Valdés received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences and was inducted into the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame. Valdés celebrated his 80th birthday in October of 2021 as he was completing La Creación (The Creation), a three-movement suite for a small ensemble, voices, and a big band. The piece—the most ambitious work of his career—tells the history of Creation according to the Regla de Ocha, the Afro-Cuban religion known as Santería. The Creation was a commission of the Adrianne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, the Chicago Symphony Center, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.