Jazz great Chuchito Valdés’ new album mixes grandfather’s 1950’s Havana with new sounds

Video by David McLean, Courtesy of The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at New York Public Radio

For the Valdés family, music is a dominant gene.

Grammy- and Latin-Grammy-nominated Latin jazz pianist Chuchito Valdés, has followed in the footsteps of his famed father, Chucho Valdés and grandfather Bebo Valdés — all acclaimed piano players from Havana, Cuba.

Last week, Chuchito, also a composer, recorded his next album — which is planned for release this summer — with a 14-piece Latin jazz band, in front of a live studio audience at WNYC in New York City. It is a tribute to his grandfather Bebo, who passed away this past March, at age 94.

“I had a lot of respect for my grandfather,” says Chuchito. “He was the motor of my family. He was way ahead of his time. Bebo did a lot of arrangements for world-famous musicians.”

In this album, the third-generation musician explains his mission is to celebrate Bebo’s legacy and impact around the world by going back to the beginning and performing his grandfather’s arrangements from the Tropicana Nightclub in Havana, where Bebo played the 1950s.  Chuchito, however, is throwing in a splash of his own more contemporary notes.

“When there’s a mix, everything is delicious,” says Chuchito, who can’t help but sing from emotion while he leads his orchestra. “This is something he would have been very proud of and humbled by, since despite his greatness, he was a very modest man.”

This week, Chuchito’s father, Chucho, will be performing his new album “Border-Free” as part of the Blue Note Jazz Festival, also in New York City.

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