Hours before legendary Cuban jazz musician Chucho Valdés and Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo performed at the Adrienne Arsht Center, a group of Miami-Dade County high school musicians got to have an exclusive preview of the show.
Some 150 students filed into the Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall where Chucho Valdés and his band, the Afro-Cuban Messengers, were busy rehearsing for their show later in the evening. The young performers also got time to ask questions of all the musicians as part of the Jazz Roots program.
Jazz Roots is a jazz curation program at the Arsht center. It performed the last show of its 10th season on Friday, April 20 by spotlighting Latin jazz. Each season of Jazz Roots is a six-part series taking place from November to April and highlighting a different type of jazz music.
“When we formed this series, we wanted to create it in a way that it also spoke to the community and educated our young audiences," said Jairo Ontiveros, Arsht Center’s assistant vice president for education and community engagement. "They work with the artist, have a Q&A with them. They have a lecture with the type of music they’re going to hear for the evening, and they get free tickets to the concert as well.”
Jose Valdez, a 10th grader from Mater Lakes Academy, plays the trumpet in his school band and is also a DJ. Though he had been unfamiliar with music by Chucho Valdés’s, he now wants to learn more.
“I love the Afro-Cuban style and everything it comes with. It brings culture back," he said. "I’ve never listened to Chucho Valdés before, but after today I’m sure going to go home and download all of his music.”
In reaction to the concept of youth engagement with established jazz musicians, Chucho Valdés drew upon his memories of being inspired in his youth by meeting Nat King Cole, with whom his father was close friends.
“I was 16 years old and I played for him, too," he said. "[Nat King Cole] said to my papa, ‘Oh, Chucho may become a great piano player,' and I was very happy."
Chucho Valdés now has six Grammy awards and three Latin Grammy awards under his belt. He said he will soon release new Afro-Cuban music with a symphony orchestra.