The Incredible Dave Valentín!
DON JIBARO's NOTE: "As a professional musician for over 45 years, I don't get
impressed easily... until I hear Dave. His remarkable talent and mastery of the
instrument just blew me away! Period!"
Oh, the signing of Don Jibaro's cuatro… Dave and Don Jibaro hit it off like
two long lost friends during the signing of the cuatro and Dave Valentin's
autograph is now proudly embedded in the instrument!
Dave was born on April 29, 1952, in New York's Bronx borough to
parents who were from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Valentin was surrounded by the
music his parents listened to. The Valentin household was filled with the sounds
of Tito Rodriguez, Tito Puente, Machito and others. He picked up bongos and
congas as a child, and by his early teens, had joined a Latin group as a
He performed with the group in New York City's Latin nightclubs on the
"cuchifrito" circuit, the workingclass dance halls of New York. "Oh
yes," he said in an interview with Fernando Gonzalez of
Knight-Ridder Newspapers, "I've done my three sets for $50 and leave the club at
6 a.m. Sunday morning and seeing the people in Harlem going to church as I'm
going home to sleep." He was accepted to New York's High School of Music and Art
where he studied percussion, but it was not until Valentin was 18 and in college
that he became interested in the flute.
A girl he wanted to meet played the flute, so Valentin borrowed one and asked
her to show him a few things. A month later, he played for her, but had become
so good that she got jealous, and his plan backfired. He didn't get the girl,
but continued to study the flute with Hubert Laws, a popular jazz flutist known
for his classical technique, and with a classical player, Hal Bennett. He took
up the saxophone for a while, but Laws convinced him to drop the saxophone and
focus his energies on the flute.
The young artist worked as a schoolteacher to pay the bills but continued to
play music, becoming one of New York's up-and-coming musicians. In the early
1970s, Valentin was playing with some of the hottest Latin bands in the city,
but it was his ability to cross over and play with big-name jazz artists like
singer Patti Austin, guitarist Lee Ritenour, and pianist Dave Grusin that got
Though of Puerto Rican descent, Valentin was known for his "willingness to
investigate and absorb any style of music," wrote Mark Holston in Americas. "I
... consider myself a world artist." He first mastered the common European flute
and then experimented with different models in the flute family from around the
world. He collected pan pipes from Bolivia, a bamboo bass flute from Peru, a pan
flute from Romania and various porcelain and wooden models from Thailand, Japan,
and elsewhere, and toured with more than a dozen various flutes.
The world-renowned jazz flutist Dave
Valentin, who has lived in the Bronx all his life, says thank-you in a unique
way at the Lehman College 2006 commencement. Valentin, who was awarded an
honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, responded by performing "Obsesión"
("Obsession") on his flute.
He mastered the charanga, a Cuban music style that featured the flute, after
diligently studying the methods of Jose Fajardo, the king of the genre. He often
used a Cuban rhythm as the foundation for his take on a pop song, such as
"Blackbird" by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Holston called the flutist "adept
at mixing the essence of Afro-Caribbean styles with self-penned songs, jazz
standards and world music anthems...."
All Music Guide to Jazz critic Scott Yanow noted that on
Valentin's 1991 release, Musical Portraits, it was evident that Valentin "could
become one of the best jazz flutists," but that he had so far "not quite lived
up to his potential." Of Valentin's 1992 release, Red Sun, Yanow wrote that
Valentin seemed somewhat "controlled," despite some "passionate moments." Over
all, he called Red Sun a "relatively pleasing" CD.
In 1993, Valentin released Tropic Heat, his first Latin jazz album. Though he
had always "tried to include some Latin music in some way" on his previous
albums, he told Fernando Gonzalez of Knight-Ridder, he added that never wanted
to be "pigeonholed" as a strictly Latin artist. The record was a long time
coming for Valentin, who felt Puerto Rican rhythms and styles were sorely
overlooked by Puerto Rican musicians more clearly influenced by the sounds of
Valentin teamed up with up-and-coming Latin stars like Dominican saxophonist
Mario Rivera, conguero Jerry Gonzalez, trumpeter Charlie Sepulveda, saxophonist
David Sanchez, and trombonist Angel "Papo" Vazquez to record. The result was a
"mature, seamless blend of jazz and Afro-Caribbean elements," wrote Gonzalez. On
the album, Valentin paid tribute to his childhood hero, bandleader and vocalist
Tito Rodriguez, with a version of the song "Bello Amanecer." Yanow called Tropic
Heat "one of [Valentin's] best," and proof that Valentin "continues to grow as a
In addition to his usual position as leader and front man, Valentin has also
been sideman to some legendary jazz musicians. He
was musical director for Tito Puente, his childhood idol, and considered playing
with McCoy Tyner "like being in heaven," he said in his Concord Records
biography. He played at Dizzy Gillespie's seventieth birthday party and has been
a guest with Machito, Ray Barretto, Celia Cruz, Michel Camilo, and Herbie Mann.
Oh... Before I forget... besides being a "jodienda humana" ...he's also a
Grammy Award Winner