SFJAZZ Honors Chucho Valdés

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Thursday January 24, 2019

From Datebook – The San Francisco Chronicle

SFJazz to honor Cuban jazz giant Chucho Valdés
By: Andrew Gilbert

[…] On Thursday, Jan. 31, [Chucho Valdés] gets the royal treatment at the 2019 SFJazz Gala. In recent years, Valdés has forged a singular relationship with SFJazz, and Thursday’s concert offers an unprecedented window into his vast contributions and legacy. The brimming program features glittering vocal stars Dianne Reeves and Corinne Bailey Rae, mid-career Cuban jazz masters directly shaped by Valdés ‘” alto saxophonist Yosvany Terry and pianist Harold López-Nussa ‘” and the flagship SFJazz Collective and SFJazz High School All-Stars Big Band.

But it’s 88-year-old vocalist Omara Portuondo who anchors the concert in the pre-revolutionary Havana scene that nurtured Valdés. He was introduced to Portuondo by his father, the late piano legend Bebo Valdés, when she was a member of the dance company at the Tropicana nightclub where Bebo led the band. ‘She was so warm and engaging,’ recalled Valdés of the first meeting, speaking in Spanish. ‘I instantly had this wonderful sensation. We became friends very quickly and she’s always been my favorite singer.’

If Portuondo embodies the pianist’s roots in 1950s Havana, the West Coast debut of two of Valdés’ offspring, his daughter Leyanis Valdés (piano) and son Jessie Valdés (drums), speaks to his legacy in the most personal terms. A proud parent, he describes sharing the stage with his children as ‘the greatest feeling.’

‘Being onstage and working with your children, it’s like witnessing the seeds you planted grow before your very eyes,’ he said.

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