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Chucho's Steps is an album released by jazz pianist Chucho Valdés and his band, the Afro-Cuban Messengers. The album was released in 2010 by Four Quarters Entertainment and was produced by Valdés himself, who also composed all of the music. It won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album.

Chucho's Steps
Chucho's Steps.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 31, 2010 (2010-08-31)
RecordedNovember 23, 2009–November 30, 2009 at Abdala studio, Havana, Cuba
LabelFour Quarters
ProducerChucho Valdés
Chucho Valdés chronology
New Conceptions
Chucho's Steps

Some of the tracks were written in honor of various jazz musicians including the late Joe Zawinul, "Zawinul's Mambo", and the Marsalis family, "New Orleans". In addition to his regular sidemen, Valdés employed several additional musicians including singer/percussionist Dreiser Durruthy Bombale. Critics gave favorable reviews of the release.


I love this album, it is a sample of the new work we are doing, the new artistic combinations of Afro-Cuban music and jazz. It is a tribute to many musicians and the audience and reviewers have responded very well to it.

Chucho Valdés[1]

Chucho's Steps is Valdés's first solo album since 2003's New Conceptions.[2] Recorded at Abdala studio[3] in Havana,[4] the all-acoustic album[3] incorporates jazz, bebop, swing and Afro-Cuban ritual music.[5]

In February 2011 Chucho's Steps won the Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album.[6] The other nominees in the category were Tango Grill by Pablo Aslan, Second Chance by Hector Martignon, Psychedelic Blues by Poncho Sanchez, and ¡Bien Bien! by the Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet.[7]

The bandEdit

Valdés expanded his band, the Afro-Cuban Messengers, the name a reference to Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers,[8] from a trio to a sextet for this recording. In addition to his regular sidemen, percussionist Yaroldy Abreu Robles, bassist Lazaro Rivero Alarcón, and drummer Juan Carlos De Castro "Rojo" Blanco, are a horn section, trumpeter Reynaldo Melián Álvarez and saxophonist Carlos Miyares Hernández, and singer/percussionist Dreiser Durruthy Bombale.[9]

Selected tracksEdit

"Zawinul's Mambo" is dedicated to the late Joe Zawinul

The album's opening track, "Zawinul's Mambo", is dedicated to Austrian keyboardist Joe Zawinul. Valdés, who had been playing the piece as early as 2007, thought that Zawinul had died before ever hearing it, but in 2010 a Zawinul interview surfaced that contained him hearing a recording of the piece from a jazz festival in Marciac.[9] The track "Begin to Be Good" is a nod to Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" and George Gershwin's "Lady Be Good".[5] American musicals were a part of Valdés's childhood, and "Begin the Beguine" became a favorite song of his.[9]

Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of the Marsalis family

The track "New Orleans" is a homage to the musical Marsalis family.[2] Valdés's relationship with, Ellis Marsalis, the Marsalis patriarch goes back to 1979.[9] In October 2010 Wynton Marsalis travelled to Havana for a week-long series of shows with an aim of easing Cuba – United States relations.[10]

"Yansa" was inspired by the Yoruba religion, specifically a call to the deity Orisha, the track is highlighted by the vocals of Dreiser Durruthy Bombale.[5] "Julian" is an ode to Valdés 3-year-old son.[5] The title track, "Chucho's Steps", references John Coltrane's composition "Giant Steps".[11]


Reviews of Chucho's Steps were positive. All About Jazz reviewer Jerry D'Souza called the album "another master work from the genius of Chucho Valdés".[12] In Howard Reich's review in the Deseret News he called Valdés a "virtuoso of the highest order".[13]

Professional ratings
Chucho's Steps
Review scores
Allmusic     [8]

In The Washington Post Mike Joyce called the album a "keyboard tour de force"[11] In Jeff Simon's review in The Buffalo News he singled out the performances of drummer Juan Carlos De Castro "Rojo" Blanco and saxophonist Carlos Miyares Hernández, calling them "impressive players anywhere".[14]

Rebeca Mauleón in JazzTimes called the album "almost as good as seeing [Valdés] live".[3] LA Weekly's Brick Wahl called the album "exceptional", Valdés's playing "revelatory" and the band "just great".[4] William Ruhlmann of Allmusic call the album a "versatile set demonstrating [Valdés's] continuing vitality and invention".[8]

Track listingEdit

All tracks written by Chucho Valdés

  1. "Las dos Caras" 8:54
  2. "Danzón" 9:07
  3. "Zawinul's Mambo" 11:21
  4. "Begin to Be Good" 5:12
  5. "New Orleans" 4:42
  6. "Yansá" 7:49
  7. "Julián" 7:52
  8. "Chucho's Steps" 10:52




Chart (2010) Peak
Billboard Jazz Albums[15] 21


  1. ^ Ratner-Arias, Sigal (22 October 2010). "Chucho Valdes Talks About Father, New Album". ABC News. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  2. ^ a b Junco, Maite (20 October 2010). "Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés jazzed for new sound". Daily News. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Mauleón, Rebeca (10 December 2010). "Jazz Reviews: Chucho's Steps Chucho Valdés & The Afro-Cuban Messengers". JazzTimes. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  4. ^ a b Wahl, Brick (14 October 2010). "Brick's Picks: Far East, Far Out". LA Weekly. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d Cary, Emily (26 October 2010). "Pianist Chucho Valdes takes stage at Warner Theatre". The Washington Examiner. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  6. ^ "Chucho Valdes Wins Fourth Grammy Award". Solvisión. 15 February 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  7. ^ "Nominees And Winners". Grammy Award. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  8. ^ a b c Ruhlmann, William. "Review: Chucho's Steps". Allmusic. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d Cararach, Joan A. (20 September 2010). "Chucho Valdes: The Music Never Ends". All About Jazz. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  10. ^ "Marsalis, Valdes unite for Cuban jazz series". 5 October 2010. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  11. ^ a b Joyce, Mike (29 October 2010). "Album review: Chucho Valdes & the Afro-Cuban Messengers' Chucho's Steps". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  12. ^ D'Souza, Jerry (26 September 2010). "Chucho Valdes & the Afro-Cuban Messengers Chucho's Steps". All About Jazz. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  13. ^ Reich, Howard (7 September 2010). "New jazz recordings: Miles' set mammoth while Wilson blends old, new". Deseret News. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  14. ^ Simon, Jeff (12 September 2010). "Brief reviews of select releases". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  15. ^ "Charts & Awards: albums Chucho's Steps". Allmusic. Retrieved 21 March 2011.