The son of the noted musician Bebo Valdes, Chucho began playing piano when he was three and by the time he was 16 he was leading his own group. In 1960 his father defected from Cuba but Chucho stayed behind. In 1967, he formed the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna and, in 1973, he founded Irakere, the top Cuban jazz orchestra; among its original members were Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D’Rivera. Valdes has been Irakere’s musical director almost from the start and has recorded with the full band, in small groups, and as an impressive solo pianist. He remains one of the top jazz musicians living in Cuba.