Media Advisory: Legendary Latin jazz musician and Grammy Award Winner
03/08/2017 | Media Alerts
Bronx, New York – March 8, 2017 -- Grammy award winner and Latin jazz musician Dave Valentin passed peacefully early this morning surrounded by his family and loved ones at the Throggs Neck Rehab & Care Facility in the Bronx where he had been since 2015.
Dave was born to Puerto-Rican parents in the Bronx and attended the High School of Music and Art. He learned percussion at an early age, and by 10 was playing conga and timbales professionally. When he was 12, he took up flute so he could meet a girl in school who played the flute. He borrowed a flute, bought a Herbie Mann record, and started to teach himself. Years later, he recorded an album with Mann called Two Amigos. He was a student of renowned jazz flutist Hubert Laws who became his mentor.
Valentin was the first artist signed to GRP Records, which released his debut album, Legends, in 1979. He made well over a dozen more albums as a leader, almost always with strong Afro-Caribbean flavor. But it wasn’t until Tropic Heat, a breakthrough in 1993, that he made a self-described “Latin-jazz album,” fully embracing his niche. In that same era, Valentin served as musical director for one of his childhood heroes, the timbalero and bandleader Tito Puente, and played in groups like Manny Oquendo’s popular conjunto band, Libre.
Most of Valentin’s own albums within the last 25 years were forthright in their connection to an Afro-Cuban pulse, though he also continued to serve a smooth-jazz constituency with releases like Sunshower, in 1999. He was named Best Flutist in the Jazziz magazine Readers Poll from 1989 to ’91, and won a Grammy award for Best Latin Jazz Album in 2003 — for Caribbean Jazz Project, an album made in collaboration with the vibraphonist Dave Samuels.
Valentin was celebrated in Latin-jazz circles for more than 40 years, initially as a byproduct of his cultural foundation as a Bronx-born Puerto Rican. But he was wary of being typecast, preferring to describe himself as a “world artist,” and playing variations of his instrument with ties to the folkloric music of East Asia, South America and Eastern Europe. He played a Peruvian bamboo bass flute, a Romanian pan flute, Bolivian pan pipes, and various other kinds of flute from around the world, typically traveling with more than a dozen varieties.
The last album that Valentin released was Pure Imagination, on the HighNote label in 2011. The following year, he suffered a stroke during a gig, and was paralyzed on his right side. He made a partial recovery but had another stroke in 2015, after which he was moved into a care facility. His condition continued to deteriorate with the onset of the effects of Parkinson’s disease last fall.
Valentin is survived by a brother, George Valentin, and many nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews.
The wake will take place on Friday March 10, 2017 at the Thomas C. Montera Funeral Home, 1848 Westchester Avenue, Bronx, NY from 3PM – 9PM. A Mass will take place on Saturday March 11, 2017 at Holy Cross Church, 600 Soundview Avenue, Bronx, NY at 10AM.
In lieu of flowers the family has requested that donation be made to two of David’s most beloved organizations Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education and The Jazz Foundation of America. Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education empowers youth and their families by creating a culture of learning through high quality social, cultural, and education opportunities. 928 Simpson St, Bronx, NY 10459.
The Jazz Foundation of America (JFA) is a non-profit organization based in Manhattan, New York founded in 1989. The JFA's programs seek to help jazz and blues musicians in need of emergency funds and connect them with performance opportunities in schools and the community. 322 West 48th Street New York, NY 10036.