Cuban flautist Orlando “Maraca” Valle is one of the most important producers, composers and performers of anything from Latin Jazz to Salsa to Cuban Timba in the music scene today.
I had a chance to talk to Maraca ahead of his presentation at Seattle’s Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley back in the summer of 2011 during his U.S. tour.
“Maraca” Valle Musical Studies
“Maraca” Valle started studying flute at age 10, and when he was 15 years old he was already the musical director of a young ensemble of Cuban Jazz he had joined.
“At that early age I was already capable of musically directing a group. However, I didn’t have the knowledge to lead a band as I lacked experience in soliciting gigs and other band administrative duties.”
Maraca would later get a chance to learn all there is about the business of leading a band when he joined the famed Latin fusion Cuban band Irakere, directed by multi-Grammy winner pianist Chucho Valdes.
The Irakere Years
Irakere was the premier Afro Cuban Jazz Fusion band of Cuba and Latin America, producing such luminaries as Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo Sandoval, and Chucho Valdes, among many others. When Chucho Valdes was looking to modernize the band by adding an electronic keyboard to the lineup, Maraca, who can also play the keyboard, showed up in Chucho’s house.
“He remembered me from a previous time our groups shared the stage, and asked me to play the flute. I did and he completely ignored my keyboard audition.”
“Marca” recounts that he learned a lot during the years with Irakere.
“After playing the keyboards and flute for 6 years next to such an accomplished pianist, I learned incredible things, but I also had the opportunity to meet a lot of people, play next to extraordinary musicians, play at festivals around the world, and meet producers. I had no plans to leave Irakere until one day I noticed that Chucho was losing interest in the group. Logically, after so many years, he wanted to do something different and started his quartet”, says the 2003 Grammy nominee for “Best Salsa Album” for his album “Tremenda Rumba”.
Here’s an audio clip of my interview with Orlando “Maraca” Valle (in Spanish) where he talks about his experience with Cuban band Irakere:
“Otra Vision” and Other Musical Collaborations
In 1994 Maraca left Irakere to form his own band, which he named “Otra Vision” in honor to one of the musicians he most admired, the late Cuban pianist Emiliano Salvador, who had an album called “Nueva Vision”.
His 1st two recordings where Latin Jazz instrumental albums, titled “Formula Uno” and “Havana Calling” respectively. After these, Maraca began recording tropical music, starting with “Sonando”(1998), in which he invited Cuban great Compay Segundo and also added conga legend Tata Güines, as well as conga extraordinaire Miguel “Angá” Diaz.
After “Sonando”, Maraca released “Descarga Total” (2000), and then “Tremenda Rumba” (2002), the latter got him a Grammy nomination for “Best Salsa Album”.
Orlando “Maraca” Valle became a much solicited sideman and producer since his years with Irakere. He collaborated in projects with Juan de Marcos Afro Cuban All Stars (participated in the 1999 album “Distinto y Diferente”), with Jesus Alemañy’s “Cubanisimo“, and legendary Cuban Trova singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez.
His networking abilities landed Maraca a project to put together an all-star band for the Monterey Jazz Fest. The resulting “Maraca & the Monterey Latin Jazz All-Stars” included such luminaries as Giovanni Hidalgo, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, David Sanchez, Miguel Zenon, John Benitez, and many others.
This project and its twin concept “Maraca & the Afro-Cuban Jazz Masters” have performed in various countries and just recently were recorded in a “Live” performance in Havana which will go to market in the next few months in CD and DVD formats. Below I’ve added a video which provides a taste of what’s coming soon:
Trailer del concierto del Latin Jazz All Stars en La Habana
Maraca Valle’s Music Shouldn’t Be Missed!
The band for Orlando “Maraca” Valle’s tour is composed of 12 musicians, which is quite a large ensemble. Maraca mentioned he wants to provide a 1st class show, with the ability to span many musical genres.
Enjoy…and don’t be shy to get up and dance!