Pianist keeps it in the family

Leyannes Valdes, resident pianist at Grand Old House for nearly a year, will perform with her father, jazz pianist Chucho Valdes, for the first time in Cayman on Thursday.

Chucho Valdes

Chucho Valdes

‘I am very excited for that,’ said Ms Valdes. ‘It’s very hard, of course, to play with him because he is so good, so professional, and I am young but I learn a lot from him.’

Mr. Valdes has won five Grammys and been nominated for 14. His musical talent has led him to be compared with jazz pianist greats such as Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans.

‘All of my family are pianists – my grandfather is the big pianist in the family, and it is because of him that my father plays like this,’ said Ms Valdes, referring to her grandfather, Bebo Valdes, a Grammy-award winning pianist who figured prominently in the golden age of Cuban music. Chuchito Valdes, Ms Valdes’ brother, is also an accomplished jazz pianist.

Ms Valdes is not the only member of her family, however, who is living away from home.

‘My grandfather lives in Spain now, not in Cuba, but I played with him four years ago in Spain,’ she said. ‘My brother plays in Mexico and the United States.’

Concerts such as the one taking place this week at Grand Old House offer the family an opportunity to reunite, and Cayman an opportunity to witness a musical great performing with his daughter.

When asked if she has any ambition to launch into the international music world with her piano-playing, Ms Valdes laughed.

‘I do have some CDs but I left everything in Cuba. Maybe one day,’ she said.

Martin Richter, manager of Grand Old House, is equally thrilled to be hosting Chucho Valdes at the restaurant.

‘Chucho Valdes is a legend in the jazz world. To be able to have this five-time Grammy award winner play at the Grand Old House with his daughter is a remarkable event that people will not want to miss. It will be unbelievable entertainment for all, and all for a good cause.’

The restaurant’s annual fundraising event will this year benefit Cayman HospiceCare

On behalf of the organisation, Jennifer Grant-McCarthy said: ‘We are elated to be privy to such an exciting evening of music. Our organisation relies on the support of the local community and we are grateful to the Grand Old House and 106.1 KISS FM for their generosity.’

‘The Grand Old House has been part of this community for more than a century, so it’s only natural that every year we choose a worthwhile cause to help with a fundraising event,’ Mr. Richter explained.

‘HospiceCare is a vital organisation in the Cayman Islands and is dependent on its fundraising efforts in the community. We are happy to assist such a valuable organisation.’

Linda DaCosta, a longtime patron of Grand Old House, is looking forward to attending the event.

‘Grand Old House has always been a favourite spot for me but to also have the opportunity and honour to see Mr. Valdes perform is truly a pleasure,’ said Ms DaCosta.

Tickets are $35 and are available from Grand Old House on South Church Street, HospiceCare’s location in the Conch Shell House, all Tortuga Liquor locations and Havana Club. Tickets also provide guests with a voucher for a free pasta on a future visit to Grand Old House.

Chucho Valdes biography

Born on 9 October, 1941 as Jesus Dionisio Valdes in Quivican, Cuba, Mr. Valdes’ musical career began at an early age and continues to this day.

Known as Chucho, Mr. Valdes began to play the piano, by ear, at three years of age. By five years old, he had begun piano lessons with Oscar Muñoz Boufartique.

At the age of eight he joined the Municipal Conservatory in Cuba, continuing with piano lessons and theory. At 14, he continued his studies with Zenaida Romeu, Rosario Franco and began composition studies with Leo Brower.

Aged 15, Mr. Valdes began his first jazz trio with Emilio del Monte and Luis Rodriguez. A year later he played with Sabor de Cuba Orchestra, which was directed by his father.

As an adult, in 1970 Mr. Valdes headed the debut of his jazz quintet at the Jazz Festival Jamboree in Poland. He was, at this point, considered among the five best jazz pianists in the world, together with Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock and Chick Korea.

Other achievements for Mr. Valdes include a plethora of Grammy nominations – 14 to date – and five Grammy wins. His group Irakere was the first Cuban group to ever win a Grammy award in 1978.

Mr. Valdes has toured in more than 50 countries, in such venues as the Carnegie Foyer, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Hollywood Bowl, Theater Colón of Buenos Aires and Village Vanguard, among others.

Mr. Valdes has received the key of the city of Ponce in Puerto Rico, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans and Madison. Besides that, in a ceremony in Los Angeles he was included in the Hall of the Fame of the Latin American Jazz next to Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and Lalo Schifrin.

He has received the National Prize of Music in Cuba, a Doctorate Honoris Causes from the University of Victoria in Canada, the Doctorate Honorees Causes in Arts in the Upper Institute of Art of Havana, Distinction as Pedagogical Merit in the Upper Institute of Art, and the Medal Félix Varela which is the maximum distinction in the Cuban Culture.

Now, he continues his career by touring around the world and recording with artists from many countries.