Ramón Valle (born 1964) was only seven years old when he began studying the piano at the Escuela Provincial de Arte in his home town of Holguin, Cuba. He graduated from Havana’s Escuela Nacional de Arte in 1984. His exceptional talent was discovered in 1985 when he performed in a double concert with fellow Cuban pianist, Emiliano Salvador, who died prematurely seven years later. As a solo artist and as leader of the jazz quartet Brujula, Valle appeared at numerous festivals (Mexico DF, Bogota, Havana Jazz Festival) and was soon an established name in the Cuban and Latin American jazz scene. In 1991 Silvio Rodriguez, founder of the Nueva Trova, asked him to join his band Di kara, which he stayed with until 1993.
“The greatest talent among our young pianists.” Chucho Valdés, prominent musician and founder of Irakere, used these words to introduce Ramón Valle on his debut album Levitando (1993). On this first CD, Valle revealed himself as a pianist with a sound of his own. Although the influence of classical music and jazz, especially of the triumvirate Jarrett-Corea-Hancock can be heard, the remarkable thing about Valle’s music is his ability to weld these diverse influences to create a unique style that eludes traditional categories. Rather than being a pianist who plays Latin Jazz or Cuban Jazz, Valle is a Cuban jazz pianist. He produces pure, contemporary jazz. Although clearly present, his Cuban roots never form the basis of his pieces. In his own words, “I am a Cuban musician who falls within the category called ‘jazz’, but my music borders on many other musical forms. Sometimes I feel like a troubadour, because I tell stories, stories without words.”
When he first performed in Europe – invited by Barcelona’s Jamboree Jazz Club – critics were surprised by Valle’s virtuosity and technical perfection. After this European debut, Ramón Valle went on to great success at other European and Latin American venues. That same year saw the release of Piano Solo, his second CD. Comprised once again of his own compositions, it was characterized by great originality and powerful lyricism, but especially by Valle’s ability to evoke diverse atmospheres within a single composition. In 1998 Ramón Valle settled in Europe.
In 2002 Ramón Valle started to record for the German label ACT. That year saw the release of Danza Negra (ACT 9404-2) dedicated to the compositions of his famous fellow Cuban Ernesto Lecuona.
On his second CD with ACT, No Escape (2003), Ramón Valle not only made a name for himself as a composer of brilliantly unique music, but once again excelled as a Jazz musician beyond categorization. His own approach is, “not one hundred percent Cuban, but one hundred percent me, my trio.” As he himself likes to put it: “No Escape is the result of a conversation with my musicians. Music is talking, raising your voice, voicing your opinion. Every day when I sit down at the piano is another quest for new words, for my own voice.”
Danza Negra (ACT, 2001)
No Escape (ACT, 2004)
Piano Works IV: Memorias (ACT, 2005)
Fabulas (Budapest Music Center, 2008)
Playground (RVS, 2009)
Flashes from Holland (RVS, 2011)
Take Off (In + Out, 2015)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.