Two centuries ago, the greatest African percussionists lived in a region called Irakere. Their descendants brought this music to Cuba and it formed the rhythmic foundation for Cuban music.
The group Irakere was born twenty-five years ago as a means of self-expression for some extraordinary young musicians. By combining the power of the Cuban rhythms in their blood with the free-flowing expression of the American jazz they loved, they created a force that changed the course of Cuban popular music.
Many great musicians have been a part of Irakere's history, such as Paquito D'Rivera and Arturo Sandoval, both of whom have gone on to fame in the United States. Many are still in the band, such as the great bassist Carlos del Puerto or the master of the drum set, Enrique Plá. New musicians keep joining, witness to the phenomenal musical abilities of so many young Cubans. At the center of it all is El Maestro, Jesús "Chucho" Valdés, continuing to compose incomparable music and to lead an ensemble that is second to none.
Musical director and pianist Chucho Valdes is widely regarded as the greatest living Latin Jazz pianist, while legendary saxophone player Paquito D'Rivera and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval polished their chops with Irakere before defecting from Cuba. Combining Afro-Cuban folklore with Fusion, Bop and Salsa, the band has been at the vanguard of Latin Jazz since its inception, composing songs that have become standards and turning standards on their head with creative arrangements. A big band, Irakere feature a deep rhythm section anchored on the bass of Carlos del Puerto, the full range of Cuban drums and percussion, and at least four horns in the brass section. For decades they have toured internationally, playing prestigious jazz festivals. For years they were an annual feature at Ronnie Scott's club in London, where they made some of their finest recordings.