SFJAZZ Gala to Honor Afro-Cuban Jazz Artist Chucho Valdes

Chucho Valdes SF Jazz Festival

Each year, SFJAZZ honors an icon of jazz with its Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2019, they are celebrating the work of Afro-Cuban jazz legend Chucho Valdes. Their gala event brings together political and cultural leaders, celebrities, artists, and the community to bond over musical excellence and achievement. Let’s take a look at Chucho, his artistic legacy, and all the details of the January event, taking place in San Francisco.

Honoring Chucho Valdés

The gala will honor influential Afro-Cuban jazz pianist, composer, arranger, and bandleader Dionisio de Jesus “Chucho” Valdes Rodriguez. Valdes has won six Grammys, three Latin Grammys, and a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, in a career than has spanned over five decades.

Chucho’s Legacy

Chucho has been called the most influential figure in modern Afro-Cuban jazz. The son of legendary pianist, bandleader, and composer Ramon “Bebo” Valdes, Chucho grew up surrounded by music. In 1959, at the age of 15, he formed his first jazz trio, the legendary band Sabor de Cuba. The 1960s saw Valdes co-founding another group, the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, which would create the offshoot Ikarere.

Dizzy Gillespie discovered Ikarere, while traveling to Cuba on a jazz cruise. That same year (1977), the band performed at Carnegie Hall (that performance led to a Grammy for Best Latin Recording). In the following years, Chucho has won numerous Grammys, was inducted into the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame, and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music by the Berklee College of Music.

The Gala Will Take Place on January 31, 2019

SFJAZZ’s 2019 Gala will take place on January 31, 2019, at the SFJAZZ Center (201 Franklin Street, San Francisco). The center, founded in 2013, is considered the country’s “first freestanding building…built for jazz performance and education.”

The Reception Will Be Cuban Themed

There are different tiers for ticketing for the 2019 SFJAZZ gala. Gala concert tickets include a Cuban-inspired cocktail hour, with food, drinks, and music. Performances by Cuban artists include icon Omara Portuondo, saxophonist Yosvany Terry, pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa, and Valdes’ children, pianist Leyanis Valdes, and percussionist Jessie Valdes. Jesus Diaz y su QBA will be performing at the after party.

Corinne Bailey Rae, Omara Portuondo, and More Will Perform

In addition to a performance by Chucho Valdes, there will be performances by Omara Portuondo, Corinne Bailey Rae, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Irakere 45, Dianne Reeves, and more. Chucho and Irakere 45 will also play an extended run of shows at the SFJAZZ Center, from February 1-3.

Proceeds Will Benefit Artistic and Educational Programs

Music is a gift that should be shared with younger generations. Unfortunately, many schools are cutting their music classes due to lack of funding. SFJAZZ aims to provide jazz education to children, youth, and adults, through master classes, workshops, labs, and more. All of the proceeds from the gala will support SFJAZZ’s artistic and education programs.

At the gala itself, educational work by SFJAZZ will be on display. In 2018, it was announced that SFJAZZ would be expanding their in-school education programs, which will benefit over 23,000 students in 70 middle schools in San Francisco and Oakland.