Questions for Jose Valdes and Mambo All-Stars
The band plays salsa, merengue, cumbia, cha-cha, boleros and every variety of Latin dance rhythms.
The Chicago-born Jose Valdes and The Mambo All-Stars are ready to transport you to Latin America today at Jazz in the Park, taking inspiration from a wide range of artists, including John Coltrane, Olga Tanion’, Celia Cruz, Ray Barreto, Sonora Poncena, La India, Cubanisimo, and Perez Prado. The bills itself as “an energetic dynamic band which plays salsa, merengue, cumbia, cha-cha, and boleros, a complete variety of all the Latin dance rhythms.” The Chicago-based group has played at Summerdance at Grant Park, the Adler Planetarium, the Taste of Chicago and other venues and events.
Valdes is the leader of the band and the piano player who has worked with such artists as Jose Fajardo, Tito Puente, and Eddie Palmieri. Joining him is Luis Rosario on timbales, Nathan Rodriguez on upright bass, Frankie Ocasio on congas and coro, Fred Cantu on trumpet, Ian Letts on saxophone and flute, John Mose on trombone, and featured artist Sonia Perez handling lead vocals and percussion. As suggested by the various percussionists in the band, its music is all about the beat.
The band is performing tonight at 6pm at Cathedral Square Park. Valdes answered our questions via email.
How did you get your start in jazz/reggae/rock music?
I started leading my Latin band in Chicago on the South Side in 1975.
How did your band meet/start playing together?
I draw my artists from all over Chicagoland, over a span of three decades.
How did you get involved in Jazz in the Park and what do you like about performing there?
It is a great venue with high exposure and an artistic environment.
How would you describe your style of music?
How do you try to connect to and work the audience?
By presenting excellent material and musicianship.
How would you describe the state of music today?
Entering a new era.
How do you balance your music with other obligations – mate, children, job?
Balance is about getting the creative work done, all else will follow.
What is your musical background?
Classical, Jazz, Latin – DePaul University, Chicago
How did you get your start in music?
Piano at age 6, taught by a nun at Chicago Public School.
What are some of your most memorable experiences performing on stage?
The 1997 Hennessey Jazz Search contest at Village Gate in New York and the 1999 Chicago Jazz Fest.
What are your hopes and aspirations for the band?
Excellence and originality.
What drew you to this kind of music?
It just was…
What do you love the most about performing live?
The electricity of real music in real time.
How do you handle making mistakes during a live set?
Just keep performing; even the greatest works have flaws.
Where are your favorite places to perform?
Parks in the summer
How is performing Latin jazz different from other genres?
The artistic latitude and improvisational freedom.
What do you think of Milwaukee as a musical city?
I have not performed there in many years, am greatly looking forward to it.