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The Maestro: Chucho Valdés

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Thursday January 31, 2019

From SFJAZZ

THE MAESTRO: CHUCHO VALDÉS IS THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF CUBAN MUSIC
By: Richard Scheinin

Chucho Valdés ‘” the pianist, the bandleader, the composer, the Maestro ‘” is 77 years old and he is not slowing down. To hear him speak, one would think his career were at its midpoint, that he hadn’t already spent a good 60 years innovating and synthesizing, always looking for the way ahead while grooming generations of fresh musical talent in his native Cuba and beyond. The celebrated singer Omara Portuondo calls him ‘one of the glories of Cuba.’ Yet Valdés seems to view his career as simply arising from a natural course of events: ‘Music is an eternal spiral, and one never gets to the end of it,’ he says. ‘It is always in progress, developing. I have lived ‘” and live ‘” in an evolving tradition, and as I look forward, I still see a long journey ahead. I have many dreams I still hope to bring to life, many plans.’

No wonder SFJAZZ has chosen to honor him with its 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award. About 15 years ago, the organization coined a phrase ‘” ‘traditions in transition’ ‘” as a way of describing what jazz is all about. Well, Valdés is a one-man tradition in transition, the recipient and transmitter of a lineage, an expander of musical possibilities.

[…] Valdés, for his part, has been doing the same for decades, and winning the Lifetime Achievement Award seems to have put him into a contemplative frame of mind. ‘This has caused me to go back over my life and work,’ he says, ‘much like looking at an album of old photographs, when you situate yourself in time and place and look back on the decades of your journey. You say to yourself, `It was so worthwhile,’ even though you had to work hard, you studied, or you may have had challenges. But always moving forward.’

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