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CHUCHO VALDÉS has been called the greatest jazz pianist in Cuba, and one of the best pianists in the world. He began playing the piano when he was three, and by age 18 he had already recorded two albums for RCA Victor. In 1973, he founded the legendary Cuban Latin jazz ensemble Irakere which included among its original members Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D’Rivera. The group was the first post-embargo Cuban ensemble to be signed to an American label. American audiences didn’t see much of Valdés until 1996, when trumpeter Roy Hargrove was invited to Valdés’ Havana Jazz Festival. In return, Hargrove brought him to the States as a guest soloist in his band. The result of that fruitful union was Hargrove’s CD Crisol, which featured Valdes. Chucho Valdés has since performed at the Jazz at Lincoln Center and signed with EMI/Canada. He remains one of the top jazz musicians living in Cuba today.