Cuban legends Chucho Valdés and Paquito D’Rivera reunite after decades

Way back in 1962, reedist Paquito D’Rivera was invited to hear pianist Chucho Valdés at a local club in his Marianao neighbourhood of South Havana.

The two quickly found a rapport with each other and began a musical partnership that helped shape jazz in Cuba. With their shared background in both traditional and popular styles, they made music that spanned jazz, son cubano, classical and mambo.

The pair’s first musical explorations were as members of the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna, an experimental large ensemble used for stage and screen. After that, they formed Quinteto de la Orquesta Cubana, a small group that focused on jazz with Afro-Cuban rhythmic influence. Their longest collaboration was with jazz-fusion group Irakere, which formed in 1973.

By 1980, D’Rivera had left the country to live in New York, and the two musicians’ paths diverged as they each honed a legacy as one of the most influential and talented artists Cuba has ever produced. 

In the U.S., D’Rivera went on to become one of the top woodwind players in jazz and beyond. Valdés remained in Cuba and was the leader of Irakere until 2005 while continuing to perform solo and with various ensembles around the world.

Now, 60 years after their first meeting, the pair has finally reunited to create a monumental new recording called I Missed You Too! It marks D’Rivera and Valdés’s first project together since the Irakere days.

Listen to the first track Mambo Influenciado below.

An original composition by Valdés, Mambo Influenciado is an electrifying piece with lightning quick passages for D’Rivera’s fleet alto along with brilliant solos from Valdés and Urcola.

For their reunion tours and new album, D’Rivera and Valdés recruited a sextet of musicians specializing in the blending of jazz and Afro-Cuban music. The group features trumpeter and trombonist Diego Urcola, drummer Dafnis Prieto, bassist José A. Gola and percussionist Roberto Junior Vizcaino.

Known as the Reunion Sextet, the band met in early January of 2022 at the Frost School of Music Recording Studio in Miami to record I Missed You Too! The set includes two originals by both leaders, along with pieces by Hilario Durán and Carlos Gardel.

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Here’s the track listing for I Missed You Too!:

  1. Mambo Influenciado
  2. Mozart
  3. I Missed You Too!
  4. Pac-Man
  5. Claudia
  6. El Majá de Vento
  7. El Día Que Me Quieras

The Chucho Valdés & Paquito D’Rivera Reunion Sextet’s 
I Missed You Too! 
will be released July 22, 2022, via Sunnyside.