Chucho Valdés: Irakere 40 will perform a concert at Hope College on Saturday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.

A five-time Grammy and three-time Latin Grammy-winning pianist, composer and bandleader, Jesús “Chucho” Valdés is also Irakere’s founder, main composer and arranger. The 2015 Chucho Valdés: Irakere 40 tour is a celebration of Irakere, the Havana-based band that fuses Afro-Cuban ritual music, popular Afro-Cuban music styles, jazz and rock. Valdés has helmed Irakere for the past four decades, swapping in the finest young Cuban musicians, making certain the band swings hard, and persevering at the vanguard of Cuban jazz. In this appearance, Valdés offers a glimpse of his great project for 2015: revisiting and reinterpreting the music of his group, Irakere, featuring a band of young musicians.

El Periódico has said of his work, “Valdés is the creator of a sound that is now the lingua franca in Latin Jazz, but forty years ago … it sounded like a revolution.”

The New York Times has praised him as well, calling him “A pianist of imperial command, possessed of a dazzling, deceptively casual virtuosity.”  The New York Times also noted, “Mr. Valdés boosted the energy, making the piano talk with great, hard, ringing chords and single notes like rapid-fire arrow shots. The force and charisma in his technique never really get old.”

Son of Cuban jazz pioneer Bebo Valdés, Chucho developed many of today’s Afro-Cuban musical hallmarks: the combination of bebop with guajeo-based horn lines, the use of the batá and other Cuban folkloric instruments, and rhythms that laid the groundwork for timba. Chucho, speaking of his father, said, “At home he played jazz: the music of Ellington, Count Basie and Glenn Miller’s band. I’ve been privileged. Because Bebo was the piano player at the Tropicana I could see true legends of jazz in person. He took me to see Nat King Cole, Errol Garner and Sarah Vaughan when I was a child studying music. You can’t imagine the effect that had on my life! It was enormous! Magical!”

Irakere first made its mark internationally in Finland in 1976. The following year, the band was discovered by Dizzy Gillespie during a visit to Havana on a jazz cruise that also included pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines and saxophonist Stan Getz. In 1978 the producer Bruce Lundvall, then president of CBS, signed the band for the label. Irakere debuted, unannounced, as “surprise guests,” at Carnegie Hall as part of the Newport Jazz Festival. The program that night also featured pianists Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner, two of Valdés’ main influences.

Tickets for the concert are $18 for regular admission, $13 for senior citizens, Hope faculty/staff, $6 for children, and free for Hope College students, and are available at the ticket office in the Events and Conferences Office located downtown in the Anderson-Werkman Financial Center (100 E. Eighth St.). The office is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be called at (616) 395-7890. Tickets are also available online at

Dimnent Memorial Chapel is located at 277 College Ave., at the corner of College Avenue and 12th Street.