Jose Valdes

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Jose Valdes
JoseValdes jazzpiano.jpg
circa 2009
Background information
Birth name Jose Angel Valdes
Born (1957-08-04) August 4, 1957 (age 60)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Genres Latin jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, bandleader, composer
Instruments Piano, organ
Years active 1968–present

Jose Angel Valdes (born August 4, 1957) is a Latin jazz pianist and bandleader.


Early years[edit]

His father, Jose Valdes, was born in San Carlos, Tamaulipas, Mexico and was his first musical influence. His late mother, Elena Valdes, was from Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico. His father's uncles were Norteño (music) musicians that played accordion and guitar. The oldest of three children, Valdez grew up on the south side of Chicago. The musical influence from his father came as a result of his listening to jazz and be-bop records along with Mexican music. His mother preferred classical music, in particular waltzes by Johann Strauss II.

Valdez started piano at age six in elementary school, where he was taught by a nun.[1] His choice of piano was partially influenced by the pianists he saw on television, such as Steve Allen, Liberace, Oscar Levant and Lawrence Welk. He discovered the organ while shopping at Sears with his parents. He taught himself the Magnus chord organ library of books. The organ had 12 chord buttons and a 3-octave keyboard which he played for two years. When he was eleven, his parents bought him a Hammond organ. He took lessons at a store in downtown Chicago with Paul Renard, who became the author of The Music Dynamics Method for Sight Reading, staff organist for Hammond, and co-inventor of the electric piano.[citation needed]

Valdez learned alto saxophone and became a member of the Bass Public School-Chicago concert band. During his years at the St. Rita of Cascia High School in Chicago, he was involved in the marching and stage bands. While playing alto sax with the stage band, he continued to practice at home on the organ. He attended DePaul University, where he concentrated on composition.

Professional work[edit]

In 1972 he joined a soul music band known as Purple Sunshine. During the next year he started his first Latin band, Los Diamantes Negros. In both bands he played Hammond organ and Fender Rhodes electric piano. In high school, he doubled the band's membership to eight. Valdez wrote charts, transcribed, and arranged music and acted as bandleader. His favorite musicians included Edgar Winter, The Brecker Brothers, Grand Funk Railroad, Sly and the Family Stone, and the Latin music acts Gran Combo, José José, and the Fania All-Stars. Through his college years, he performed with his band at venues in Chicago.

After college, he toured as a member of the forty-five piece band Topaz. Returning to Chicago, he worked as a freelance musician and at Fields Piano Company. He performed five nights a week at restaurants, accompanying a singer and guitarist who played commercial music such as Elvis Presley and Neil Diamond. In 1985, he started playing with local Latin bands, then two years later joined La Confidencia with Mike Rivera and Angel Melendez.

He established Valdez Music Productions (VMP) in 1992 and created the bands Latin Jazztet, Mambo All Stars, Jazz Facets, and the International VMP Orchestra with Tito Carillo, Chuck Desormeaux, Sonia Perez, Luis Rosario, and Cal Drake. These groups performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival, Detroit-Montreaux Jazz Festival, and the Hennessy Jazz Search in New York City.

He was pianist for a band that combined combined Latin rhythm with music by Dave Brubeck and John Coltrane. The band consisted of Cal Drake, Chuck Desormeaux, Tito Carrillo, Rey Reyes, and Joe Frau.[2] He formed the group Mambo Zombies with Desormeaux and Rosario and recorded three albums beginning in from 2006 to 2008.

In 2015 he performed in Chicago as Jose Valdez and the Mambo All-Stars, with Fred Cantut, Ian Letts, John Mose, Frankie Ocasio, Nathan Rodriguez, Luis Rosario, and Sonia Perez. Valdez has worked with Jose Fajardo, Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente[1], Paquito D'Rivera, Armando Manzanero, Nelson Ned, and Catherine Whitney.


  • Mambo Zombies (2006)
  • Southside Christmas (2006)
  • MZ 3 (2008)


  1. ^ a b Fennimore, Jack (20 August 2015). "Jazz in the Park: Questions for Jose Valdes and Mambo All-Stars". Urban Milwaukee. Retrieved 17 November 2017. 
  2. ^ Reich, Howard (10 February 1997). "Pulsating: Jose Valdes' Latin Jazztet An Ensemble On The Rise". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 17 November 2017. 

External links[edit]