Latin music is still a momentous force in 2009. Its energized rhythms have penetrated into virtually every layer of contemporary music from hip-hop to jazz and world music. Hundreds of musicians have carried the torch first lit by the likes of Chano Pozo, Mario Bauza, Machito (who introduced New York to Latin jazz in the 1940s) and later, Tito Puente. Pianist/composer/arranger Chucho Valdés
(1941) has always maintained ties with his homeland Cuba. Valdés already had a jazz trio when he was only fifteen, and afterwards he worked as a pianist in the famous Marti's Theater in Havana. Later, he was the initiator of the sensational line-up Irakere, the first Latin jazz band ever to win a Grammy Award. In 1998, Valdés took a different direction with a quartet in which he demonstrated his talents as a pianist. Now he is back with a big band, following in the footsteps of his legendary predecessors, carrying the torch of true Latin jazz.