Performance Tuesday, December 4, 2012 | 8 PM

Egberto Gismonti
Danilo Pérez
Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Chucho Valdés

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Four jazz-piano legends join forces for the first time in this celebration of Afro-Cuban jazz. Included in this piano extravaganza are solos, duos, and a conclusion with all four together on stage.

Cuatro leyendas del jazz se unen por primera vez en esta celebración de jazz afro-cubano. Este espectáculo incluye solos y dúos, y cierra con los cuatro pianistas juntos en el escenario.

Quatro lendas de jazz ao piano unem forças pela primeira vez nesta celebração do jazz afro-cubano. Nesta obra espetacular e elaborada de pianos, haverá solos, duos e uma conclusão com os quatro juntos no palco.


  • Egberto Gismonti, Piano
  • Danilo Pérez, Piano
  • Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Piano
  • Chucho Valdés, Piano


  • Egberto Gismonti

    Born in Carmo, Brazil, in 1947, Egberto Gismonti began studying classical piano at the age of five. He is also self-taught on guitar, developing his own innovative, two-handed techniques of simultaneous lines and counter-melodies on the instrument. In 1970, he travelled to Paris to study with two important teachers: famed pedagogue Nadia Boulanger and 12-tone composer Jean Barraqué, who was Anton Webern's most dedicated disciple. These experiences also served to strengthen Gismonti's respect for the music of his homeland, which seemed to him an unlimited resource. "World music," as it would later be termed, was on his doorstep in Brazil, where so many musical traditions overlapped.

    Recognition for Gismonti outside Brazil arrived with the release of his ECM debut Dança das cabeças in 1977, which won the Großer Deutscher Schallplattenpreis (the annual award of the German Records Critics) and the Album of the Year Award from Stereo Review magazine in the US. He was also one-third of the extremely popular Magico trio with Jan Garbarek and Charlie Haden. Gismonti's other recordings include Sol do meio dia, Sanfona, Solo, Duas Vozes, Dança dos escravos, Infância, Música de Sobrevivência, ZigZag, and the orchestral Meeting Point. In the last two decades, he has also issued recordings on his own Carmo label. Several of his bestselling albums have never been officially released in the US.

    Beyond his work as a recording artist, Gismonti has written a vast amount of music for dozens of ballets, movies, documentaries, and art exhibitions, and composed pieces for ensembles of all sizes.

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  • Danilo Pérez

    The extraordinary Panamanian pianist and composer Danilo Pérez is among the most influential and dynamic musicians of our time. In just over a decade, his distinctive blend of Pan-American jazz has attracted critical acclaim and loyal audiences. Pérez's abundant talents and joyous enthusiasm make his concerts both memorable and inspiring. Whether leading his own ensembles or touring with renowned jazz masters (such as Wayne Shorter, Roy Haynes, and Steve Lacy), Pérez is making a decidedly fresh imprint on contemporary music, guided, as always, by his love for jazz.

    Born in Panama in 1965, Pérez started his musical studies at just three years of age with his father, a bandleader and singer. By age 10, he was studying the European classical piano repertoire at the National Conservatory in Panama. After receiving his bachelor's degree in electronics, he moved to the US, where he first enrolled at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and later transferred to the Berklee College of Music. While completing his studies in jazz composition, he performed with Jon Hendricks, Terence Blanchard, Claudio Roditi, and Paquito D'Rivera. Since the late 1980s, he has appeared with Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano, Tito Puente, Wynton Marsalis, John Patitucci, Tom Harrell, and Gary Burton. He also produced the critically acclaimed Reunion album that featured D'Rivera and Arturo Sandoval, and later appeared on Sandoval's Grammy-winning Danzon.

    Pérez is a UNESCO Artist for Peace, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, cultural ambassador of his native Panama, president and founder of the Panama Jazz Festival, artistic advisor of the innovative Mellon Jazz Up Close series at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, and faculty member of both the New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music.

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  • Gonzalo Rubalcaba

    Gonzalo Rubalcaba was born in post-revolutionary Havana in 1963. During his childhood, he absorbed the Cuban musical heritage through personal contacts within his family-notably his father, pianist Guillermo Rubalcaba, and his two brothers-as well as from leading musicians who were frequent visitors, including Frank Emilio, Peruchin, and Felipe Dulzaides. Through scarce and treasured recordings, he assimilated the tunes and styles of US jazz masters Thelonius Monk, Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson, Charlie "Bird" Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Art Blakey. Despite the diversity of his background, his initial formal musical training was entirely classical.

    By the time he graduated from Havana's Institute of Fine Arts in 1983, he was already playing in clubs and music halls. He toured with Orquesta Aragón in 1980 and introduced his own Grupo Proyecto to the North Sea and Berlin festivals in 1985. Further works earned him a Latin Grammy for Jazz Album of the Year (Supernova), as well as a Grammy for co-production with Charlie Haden (Nocturne). To his credit, he now has 15 Grammy nominations.

    Rubalcaba has performed with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Ignacio Berroa, Chick Corea, Al Di Meola, Herbie Hancock, Richard Galliano, Francisco Céspedes, Tony Martinez, Issac Delgado, Juan Luis Guerra, Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Eric Harland, Dennis Chambers, Brian Bromberg, Ron Carter, Yosvany Terry, Matt Brewer, Mike Rodríguez, Marcus Gilmore, Pat Martino, Giovanni Hidalgo, John Patitucci, Jack DeJohnette, João Bosco, Eric Harland, and Ivan Linz.

    Rubalcaba continues to tour the world as a solo pianist in jazz and classical settings, while also being a bandleader. His repertoire continues to expand beyond straight-ahead, bop, Afro-Cuban, and other forms of jazz into the worlds of traditional Cuban and Mexican ballads, boleros, and Cuban classical works. Rubalcaba has developed his own distinctive voice, challenging traditional musical classifications of the day.

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  • Chucho Valdés

    At the age of 70, with more than a half-century of innovation behind him, Chucho Valdés would be forgiven if he chose to sit back and relax. But that's precisely what the renowned Cuban pianist, composer, and bandleader is not doing. Instead, Valdés-winner of five Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards-has been touring almost constantly. He has played more live shows than at any other time in his career-more than 120 concerts in 2011-2012 alone-touching down in locales from Argentina to Australia, Cuba to Colombia.

    That career began humbly when a young Chucho began taking piano lessons from his father, the pioneering Cuban bandleader Bebo Valdés. Chucho's natural affinity for the instrument led him to the Municipal Music Conservatory of Havana, where he graduated at the age of 14. After achieving success with various bands, he formed Irakere in 1973. The multifaceted group became an international success, winning a Grammy in 1979. Turning solo in the 1980s, Valdés has remained Latin jazz royalty. He has since shared the stage with such musical luminaries as Herbie Hancock, Billy Taylor, Chick Corea, Branford and Wynton Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Grover Washington Jr., Dizzy Gillespie, Taj Mahal, and Tito Puente.

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Lead funding for Voices from Latin America is provided by grants from the Ford Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Sponsored, in part, by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and Mercantil Servicios Financieros.

Public support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Consulate General of Brazil in New York.


Mambo Influenciado
Chucho Valdés, Piano
Daniela's Chronicles
Danilo Pérez, Piano
Mack Avenue Records
Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Piano

Fernando González on Egberto Gismonti, Danilo Pérez, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Chucho Valdés

A few months ago, pianist Danilo Pérez explained that his composition "Bridge of Life" was about the theory of how the isthmus where his native Panama sits emerged millions of years ago, separating the oceans, yet also becoming a link between continents. "The piece is also a reference to that bridge that connects the worlds of classical music, jazz, and Latin music," he added. "Some of it was written, but some of it was improvised." And because some of the players were classically trained, he recalled, "it was difficult. But I did it that way to invite them to take a leap of faith, to jump and take chances. I told them we wanted to inspire people."

Those bridges—that spirit—are also the themes of tonight's concert.

Egberto Gismonti (Brazil), Danilo Pérez (Panama), and Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Chucho Valdés (both from Cuba) are not just brilliant players, but also exacting, restless composers and bandleaders. Educated in the European musical tradition and jazz—and also in the lived-in lessons of their respective indigenous music—each in his own distinct way, by choice or by default, continue to play the role of the creative artist as translator and explorer. And as they do, they ask both musicians and audiences to take chances along with them.

In their music, the conventions of jazz, European classical music, or folk music serve as a guide up to a certain point. Here is where the clichés about "Latin piano" meet the realities of Latin America and the Caribbean. And these are special artists, musically multilingual, who feel free to draw from all available sources and memories.

That the telling of a story starts in a certain manner implies no agreement that it will take you all the way through to some safe conclusion in the same language. That a rhythm now feels familiar won't always mean that it will resolve as expected.

A given piece tonight might evoke the blues, but be set to a frevo or a rumba guaguancó,  swing hard, but take the groove from a tamborito or carry a post-bop melody just as it hints at a Toque a Oshun. And it is also just as certain that tonight's music will be informed at some point by the work and spirit of creators as disparate as Heitor Villa-Lobos and Peruchín, Ernesto Lecuona and Wayne Shorter.

The effect can be both disconcerting and exhilarating.

And if you don't recognize all the labels and the names, know that it doesn't make a bit of difference. The inspiration doesn't come from what you know. It comes from the leaping.

—Fernando González is an independent music writer and critic whose work appears regularly in The Miami Herald, JazzTimes, and The International Review of Music.


Chucho Valdés on his development of Afro-Cuban music.

Egberto Gismonti performs at a Brazilian environmental awareness event, São Paulo, 1988.

Danilo Perez performs "Galactic Panama."

Gonzalo Rubalcaba performs "Improvisation #2."

Chucho Valdés performs "El Manicero."

Latin American Music and Artists at Carnegie Hall: From the Carnegie Hall Archives.

Osvaldo Golijov on the fluidity between high and low art in Latin America.

This performance is part of Around the Globe, and Voices from Latin America - Students.

Part of