Friday, October 16, 2015

Chucho Valdés Celebrates 40 Years of Groundbreaking Band Irakere at Strathmore, November 15

Chucho Valdés visits Strathmore, November 15

From our friends at Strathmore...

Strathmore Presents Chucho Valdés: Irakere 40

Jazz legend celebrates groundbreaking Afro-Cuban group, releases new album Tribute to Irakere

Chucho Valdés: Irakere 40 celebrates two landmarks in Latin jazz, the band Irakere and its iconic bandleader, Cuban-born Chucho Valdés, in the Music Center at Strathmore on Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 7 PM. Irakere’s indelible legacy, a bold fusion of Afro-Cuban ritual music, popular Afro-Cuban styles, jazz, and rock, marked a turning point in Latin jazz. The performance also honors the extraordinary contributions of five-time Grammy and three-time Latin Grammy-winning pianist, composer, and bandleader Valdés. This concert coincides with a national tour and the October 20, 2015 release of Chucho Valdés: Tribute to Irakere (Live in Marciac), featuring Valdés’ current group, the Afro-Cuban Messengers. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (301) 581-5100 or visit

Leading a 10-piece ensemble comprised of the Messengers expanded with three trumpets and two saxophones, Valdés offers a vivid retrospective of his work the past four decades. It is also a wide angle view of the evolution of Afro-Cuban jazz, as the program includes classics of Irakere’s repertoire such as “Misa Negra,” “Estela Va A Estallar” (“Stella By Starlight”), “Juana 1600,” and “Bacalao Con Pan,” with more recent compositions, originally performed with the Messengers, in new arrangements, such as “Yansa,” “Abdel,” and “Lorena’s Tango.”

Valdés started Irakere by recruiting some of his fellow players in the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna. In 1973, the budding Irakere, then still a band-within-a-band, recorded “Bacalao Con Pan,” an innovative, high energy, danceable piece that foreshadowed a style that would become known later as timba. The song was the band’s first major hit, paving the way for Irakere to become its own entity in1975. The band remained active until 2005.

Irakere was discovered by American audiences in 1977 when, in the first official visit of Americans to Cuba following the Cuban Missile Crisis, a jazz cruise ship carrying musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, and Ry Cooder dropped anchor in Havana. They heard Irakere, were bowled over, and took word back to the late Bruce Lundvall, then president of CBS Records. Months later, Lundvall visited Cuba, heard the group in concert and signed it on the spot. On June 28, 1978, performing at Carnegie Hall, Valdés and Irakere burst onto the global stage. The resulting album, Irakere, comprised of tracks drawn from the Carnegie Hall debut and a later show at the Montreux Jazz Festival, won the Grammy for Best Latin Recording.

In the years since, several charter members of Irakere, most notably saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, have gone on to become leading music figures in their own right. Throughout its history, one of Irakere’s remarkable characteristics was that the group followed and maintained two parallel musical tracks: jazz experimentation and dance music hits.

It was this drive for experimentation that led Valdés to form the Afro-Cuban Messengers. He is particularly proud of how they continue to challenge him and push the music forward. The results can be clearly heard in Chucho Valdés: Irakere 40.

Strathmore Presents 
Chucho Valdés: Irakere 40
Sunday, November 15, 2015
7 PM 

Tickets $28-58

Music Center at Strathmore
5301 Tuckerman Lane
North Bethesda, MD 20852

For additional information or to purchase tickets, visit or call (301) 581-5100.

About Strathmore:
Strathmore presents and produces exemplary visual and performing arts programs for diverse audiences; creates dynamic arts education experiences; and nurtures creative ideas and conversations that advance the future of the arts. The organization’s hallmark is the Music Center at Strathmore, with a 1,976-seat concert hall and education complex. Its core campus also includes the historic Mansion at Strathmore, which features an intimate Music Room and art galleries. Most recently, Strathmore opened AMP, a 250-seat cabaret-style venue located just up Rockville Pike from the core campus in the burgeoning Pike District of Montgomery County. Strathmore’s signature education, mission-driven programs include the Strathmore Student Concerts, the Artist in Residence and Fine Artist in Residence programs, and its Spring Break @ Strathmore camp.