Saturday, May 10, 2025, 7:30 PM

Street and Davis Performance Hall, Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre

This performance will last approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.

*Run times listed here are based on information provided at this time and are subject to change.

Category A $85 | Category B $65 | Category C $40
$10 students with ID and youth 18 and under
15%-25% subscription discounts available

"… an encyclopedic vocabulary of Afro-Cuban rhythms and an expansive palette that includes all manner of modern jazz as well as traditional classical repertoire."

The Boston Globe

World-famous pianist, composer, and arranger Chucho Valdés leads a tribute to 50 years of Irakere, his band that revolutionized Afro-Latin jazz with its bold fusion of Afro-Cuban ritual music, Cuban popular music, jazz, rock, and a splash of classical music.

Valdés, a seven-time Grammy and six-time Latin Grammy winner and recipient of a Latin Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, offers a vivid retrospective of his work with Irakere. Featuring a nine-piece ensemble, Irakere 50 is a new iteration of the legendary ensemble, with brilliant performers hand-picked from the next generation of Cuban musicians.

The tribute is also a celebration of Valdés, Irakere's founder. To offer a vivid retrospective of his work with Irakere, Valdés will lead a nine-piece ensemble. Joining his quartet — José A. Gola, electric and acoustic bass; Horacio Hernández, drums; and Roberto Jr. Vizcaíno Torre, percussion — is Eddie de Armas Jr. and Osvaldo Fleites on trumpets; Luis Beltrán and Carlos Averhoff Jr. (son of a late, long-time Irakere member), on saxophones; and vocalist Ramón Alvarez.


Valdés launched Irakere in 1973. To interpret his vision, he selected notable members and the principal soloists of the legendary Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna — a big band comprising Cuba's best musicians, which was organized in 1967 to play jazz and pop. The Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna was the officially sanctioned response to the worldwide musical revolution initiated by the Beatles. But in 1973 the budding Irakere, still a band-within-a-band, recorded Bacalao Con Pan. It was an irresistible, danceable song that hinted at the depth and breadth of the writing and playing, and it became Irakere's first major hit. Bacalao Con Pan foreshadowed innovations that would become known years later as timba, a popular style today.

"Irakere represented for me a chance to put into practice all those ideas I had since I was a music student," Valdés once said. "And that included anything, from how to mix the ritual Afro-Cuban drums and rhythms with jazz, to how to have the sound of a 'small' big band and structure the pieces. And I also did not want the sound of a big band. We were looking for another sonority — and we came up with a timbre that was different from everything being done at the time." 

Irakere became a self-standing band in 1975 and remained active until 2005.

The discovery of Irakere for American audiences began with a chance encounter in Havana in 1977 when, in the first official visit by Americans to Cuba since the Missile Crisis, a jazz cruise ship carrying musicians that included Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, and a young Ry Cooder (almost two decades before Buena Vista Social Club) dropped anchor in Havana harbor. They heard Irakere, were bowled over by the writing and the virtuosic playing, and, once back in the states, championed Irakere's case to the late Bruce Lundvall, then president of CBS Records. Months later, Lundvall visited Cuba, attended a concert and audition, signed the group on the spot, and lobbied to have Irakere appear at the Newport Jazz Festival in New York City. 

On June 28, 1978, unannounced, Chucho Valdés and Irakere closed the evening at Carnegie Hall and burst onto the global stage. A few months later, an album titled Irakere, including selected tracks from that show and a later performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival, won the Grammy for Best Latin Recording. 

Chucho Valdés first performed at the Moss Arts Center with Dianne Reeves and Joe Lovano in 2021. This is the first performance at the center for Irakere 50.

Photos by Martin Espinosa Garcia