Repeating Islands

Chucho Valdés is a giant of the piano in every sense—a huge man, almost two metres tall, with a matchless command not only of North American and European jazz and the many rhythms of his Cuban homeland, but of classical music, Latin rock, and fusion, as Tony Montague reports in this article for

He’s also an outstanding composer, arranger, and producer whose most recent album, Chucho’s Steps, bagged a Grammy last year for best Latin-jazz album.

He was born into a musical family and started learning piano at three, taught by both his parents, Pilar Rodríguez and Bebo Valdés. Later, young Chucho would perform in the orchestral bands that renowned Afro-Cuban jazz pianist Bebo directe.

“I also learned how to play batá drums and congas, and picked up all the African rhythms,” says Valdés, reached at a hotel in Newark, Ohio. “I apply many concepts of percussion to…

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