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Cuban jazz giants Chucho Valdes and Paquito D'Rivera back together with new album and tour

A shorter man with white hair and a mustache looks back at a taller man wearing glasses and a backwards white cap. They are in matching shirts covered with colorful race cars.
Chucho Valdes
Old friends and bandmates Paquito D'Rivera and Chucho Valdes.

Together for the first time in 40 years, the two Cuban jazz giants are on their worldwide "Reunion Tour" through mid-September, and their album "I Missed You Too!" released on Friday, July 22.

Saxophonist and clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera and pianist Jesús "Chucho" Valdes first met in 1962. Both were child prodigies, and both were sons of musical families.

D'Rivera and Valdes worked together in Havana's Musical Theatre Orchestra, and in the Cuban Orchestra of Modern Music. They made their first professional recordings together.

When Valdes assembled the now-legendary Cuban jazz fusion group Irakerein 1973, he naturally included D'Rivera.

D'Rivera left Cuba and Irakere in 1980, and went to New York. He's continued his work in jazz, Cuban, Brazilian and classical music, and in 2005 was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master.

Valdes continued as the leader of Irakere until 2005, while also leading trios and quartets. He's performed solo concerts, and has never stopped composing and recording. Valdes moved to Florida in 2010.

Both artists have won multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy awards for their recordings.

"I Missed You Too!" contains original pieces by both Valdes and D'Rivera, along with a nod to Mozart, some swing, and an Argentine tango.

Chucho Valdés and Paquito D’Rivera Reunion Sextet at the Adrienne Arsht Center

"I'm very proud of this reunion," D'Rivera said in a press release. "Chucho is part of my life. Our friendship is something that goes back a long way. The first song Chucho wrote that became famous was called 'Indestructible.' That's our relationship: indestructible."

In the same press release, Valdes celebrated the reunion as "one of the happiest days of my life."

"I've missed him," Valdes continued. "Paquito is part of my life. Paquito is family, and he's very important to me musically. There are many great musicians, but Paquito is unique."

"Heck, there are people who are married and don't have such a close relationship," said D'Rivera. "We were born to be close, even at a distance."

Listen for "Mambo Influenciado" from "I Missed You Too!" this week on Saturday's Jazz Caliente.

Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5 p.m. The show is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio.

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Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.