Dave Valentin

Dave Valentin
Photo Credit: Tim Owens

Dave Valentin

Virtuoso flutist Dave Valentin brings his vibrant, innovative style and warmly engaging personality to the stage for this installment of Billy Taylor's Jazz At The Kennedy Center. Though jazz music is fundementally a product of several types of fusion, one of its richest subdivisions is the marriage of jazz and Afro-Latin rhythms known as Latin-Jazz. The Latin-Jazz sound was given wings by the partnership of trumpeter-bandleader Dizzy Gillespie and Cuban hand drummer Chano Pozo in the 1940s, a marriage arranged by bandleaders Machito and his brother-in-law Mario Bauza. Valentin carries on the tradition of these forbearers, while adding his own unique and creative expression.

Born and raised in the South Bronx, Valentin is a progeny of Puerto Rican parents and a product of multicultural surroundings. As he recalls growing up alongside Italians, Greeks, Jews, African Americans and other ethnic groups in his neighborhood, Dave jokes with Billy that, walking down the hallway of his building "You could smell lasagna, chicken soup, rice and beans all at the same time." Obviously such a rich environment was brimming with musical influences, and Dave's dad started him out early, buying him conga and bongo drums when he was barely five years old.

Eventually, Dave wound up at New York’s famed High School of Music and Art, specializing in percussion. Valentin humors the audience with tales of how he struggled to curry favor with a pretty young classmate by fooling around with her flute. To his surprise he found that he enjoyed the instrument, and through diligent practice he soon surpassed her own abilities. He didn't get the girl, but had discovered his true musical calling.

The flute is an instrument that has few true specialists in either jazz or Latin music. Most flutists are saxophonists who play it as a second instrument, known as doublers. As he explains to the audience, Valentin's earliest influences on his instrument came from the Latin side, including such masters as Richard Egues from the Cuban dance band Orquesta Aragon. Later he discovered jazz flutists Lew Tabackin, Frank Wess, James Moody, and Joe Farrell, all of whom were doublers. The first jazz flute specialist who really touched Dave was Hubert Laws, who he describes to our audience as "a revelation." Not satisfied with the standard flute, Valentin has gone on to experiment with many different kinds of flutes, which he demonstrates for the audience, including a Columbian flute and the rather cumbersome bass flute.

In developing his own flute style, Valentin demonstrates a number of different effects during the program. Among these effects are singing through the flute, and electronic enhancements of the instrument. During a totally improvised solo piece, he aptly illustrates the whole "tapestry of sound" available to skilled flute players through the use of these effects. Dr. Taylor engages Dave in a discussion of various Latin music styles, which Valentin enthusiastically interprets, including the charanga style and the role of the flute within that rhythm. The two go on to discuss Dizzy Gillespie's pioneering role in bringing Latin influences into jazz.

On the bandstand, Valentin and Billy’s trio collaborate on such classics as Gillespie's hit "Manteca", Clare Fischer's "Morning," and Wayne Shorter's modern standard "Footprints." Valentin indulges the audience with his skills and knowledge, sharing his experiences with great bandleaders, and describing various Afro-Latin rhythms. A query from an audience member during the Q&A segment of the program also reveals Valentin's depth of experience in salsa or Latin dance music bands.

Don't miss Dave Valentin in our Photo Gallery!