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Winner of six Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards, the Cuban pianist, composer, arranger, and bandleader Chucho Valdés has been a key figure in the evolution of Afro-Cuban jazz for the past 50 years. In 1972, Chucho released his fourth album, a trio recording with bass and batá drums entitled simply, Jazz Batá. This ten-song exploration of the descarga roots of Cuban jazz was a departure from his early quintet recordings. Blending jazz with traditional rhythms of the sacred batá, the music showcased Chucho’s virtuosity and formed the stylistic foundation of what would become Chucho’s history-making group, Irakere. Decades later, Chucho returns to the Jazz Batá sound, joined by bassist Yelsy Heredia, plus percussionists Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé and Yaroldy Abreu Robles in a journey to discover modern interpretations of classic forms.
Chucho’s musical education includes formal studies and countless nights on the best stages in Cuba as the pianist with his father, Bebo Valdés, and his orchestra Sabor de Cuba, and also the seminal Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna. In the early 70s, Chucho distilled his experiences into the foundation of Irakere, an ensemble that marked a before and after in Afro-Cuban jazz. Chucho was the director, pianist, main composer and arranger of Irakere for more than 30 years. But since 2005, he has focused on his personal career, highlighting his work as a pianist and leading small ensembles. Now in his mid-70s, Chucho’s technique and creative output are as prodigious as ever. Border-Free finds Chucho at the top of his game, leading the Afro-Cuban Messengers, a spectacular quintet comprised of brilliant young Cuban musicians. In conjunction with the their anniversary tour in 2015, Chucho released the Grammy Award winning album, Tribute to Irakere: Live at Marciac (Jazz Village/Harmonia Mundi).