Montreal International Jazz Festival presents

Chucho Valdés

Cuban pianist, composer, and arranger Chucho Valdés is the most influential figure in modern Afro-Cuban jazz. In a career spanning more than 60 years, both as a solo artist and bandleader, Mr. Valdés has distilled elements of the Afro-Cuban music tradition, jazz, classical music, rock, and more, into a deeply personal style.

Winner of seven GRAMMY® and five Latin GRAMMY® Awards, Mr. Valdés, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Science last year and was also inducted into the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Valdés celebrated his 80th birthday on October 9, 2021, 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. It had its world premiere on November 5, 2021, at the Adrienne Arsht Center. Performances followed in several U.S. cities, including Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, the Detroit Jazz Festival , and the Monterey Jazz Festival,. In Europe, the tour began at the Philharmonie in Paris and included performances in Berlin, London, Hamburg, Lyon, and Barcelona (Mr. Valdés is the godfather of the International Jazz Festival).

Born into 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, and rock into an organic, deeply personal style.

His first teacher was his father, the pianist, composer, and bandleader Ramón “Bebo” Valdés. By the age of three, Mr. Valdés was already playing on the piano melodies he heard on the radio — using both hands and on any key. He began taking lessons on piano, theory, and solfege 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, Mr. 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, Chucho 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 as 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.

In 2022, Chucho Valdés won a Grammy and a Latin Grammy for Mirror Mirror, an album of duets by pianist and singer Eliane Elias with Mr. Valdés and the great late pianist Chick Corea. Chucho Valdés will perform on July 6 at 8pm in Theatre Maisonneuve. For tickets please visit: or call 514-842-2112.

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