Born: April 29, 1952 Primary Instrument: Flute
Renown Latin jazz flutist, Dave Valentin, was born of Puerto Rican parents in 1952 in New York City. His love for music started quite early; playing bongos and congas before he was 10 and even working Latin clubs in New York by 12. His talent and interest took him to the well respected High School of Music and Art in New York City, where he began studying percussion.
Valentin changed to flute and complemented his formal education at school with private classes under master flutist Hubert Laws. The early influences on Valentin’s development as a flutist came from Latin artists such as Richard Egues but was tempered by American jazz musicians including James Moody, Frank Wess, Joe Farrell and, of course, his mentor, Hubert Laws.
Valentin soon began working as a professional musician in Latin bands, developing an unusual technique that featured blowing in a manner that sounded like percussion. Other unique developments by Valentin included singing into the flute and using non-standard flute instruments such a bass flute and a variety of flute developed in Colombia. He applied his techniques to a wide variety of music genres, ranging from jazz and R&B to salsa and merengue.
Despite the fact that the market for Latin jazz artists was not very good when Valentin was trying to establish his professional career, he persevered and pursued other avenues. He made a name for himself in the Far East, Australia, and Europe as well as the United States, based on his extraordinary and evident talent.
Valentin released his debut album in 1977 with Ricardo Marrero and also appeared on a recording by Noel Pointer. He was the first artist to sign with the GRP label, respected for its talented pool of Jazz artists and technical leadership in digital recording techniques. Valentin produced 16 recordings for GRP, and became a respected Latin jazz instrumentalist in the market. A highpoint release was a joint effort with Herbie Mann, 1990’s “Two Amigos.”
His more recent recordings were released on other record labels, such as “Primitive Passions” in 1996 on RMM Records. That album was followed by “Sunshower” in 1999 on the Concord Jazz label, and featuring more smooth Latin jazz, such as “Reunion,” which shows the great influence of Hupert Laws.
To his artistic credit, Valentin is also a composer, arranger, and band leader in addition to being the most celebrated Latin flutist today. He won a Grammy nomination in 1985 and the kudos of jazz fans with his selection as the leading jazz flutist by Jazziz magazine readers for seven years running.
Since the mid-2000's, Valentin has been signed to HighNote Records releasing “World On A String,” in 2005 and “Come Fly With Me,” in 2006. This last effort features a premier rhythm section of Robee Ameen on drums, Milton Cardona and Richie Flores on percussion, a full on Latin jazz outing from the inspiring flutist. This recording is reviewed here by Michael Gladstone at ‘all about jazz.’