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Valdés, Jesús (Chucho)  

James Sellman

Born in Quivican, Cuba, Jesús “Chucho” Valdés is the son of the Cuban pianist and bandleader Bebo Valdés, who was for many years musical director at Havana's famed Tropicana nightclub. In 1960, when his father defected from Cuba following Fidel Castro's revolution, Chucho Valdés remained behind. Because of the embargo that the United States imposed on Cuba in 1960, Valdés remained virtually unknown to the American Jazz public for many years. But during the 1990s, he found opportunities to perform and record in the United States, and has begun to reach a wider American audience, despite the continued political intransigence between the United States and Cuba.

Valdés began playing piano at age three, and by the time he was sixteen was leading his own group. He was particularly inspired by American jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, the co-creator—along with alto saxophonist Charlie Parker ...