Cuban Jazz Great Chucho Valdés Honored At SFJAZZ Gala

A view of one of the performances in action

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Last Thursday night, the corner of Franklin and Fell was awash in blue lights and lively activity as music lovers gathered for SFJAZZ’s annual gala. A line of stylish and creatively-dressed guests waited patiently before being whisked into a blue tent where mojitos and champagne beckoned.

Chucho Valdés kisses his award

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

Like many of San Francisco’s social events, SFJAZZ offered various levels of entertainment. Some arrived early for an exclusive dinner party while others came an hour before the main event—a tribute to the legendary Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés. Whatever time they arrived, guests were treated to an open bar, culinary stations overflowing with shrimp, oysters, charcuterie, and cheese, and Roederer sparkling wine. The crowd was having so much fun that it took a while for the party planners to get everyone into the theater for the performance.

Donald Derheim

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

“Tonight we’re honoring Chucho Valdés. His career lasted more than 50 years of making amazing, beautiful, award-winning, cheerful, and dynamic music,” Donald Derheim, SFJAZZ’s CEO said while introducing the program. “He deserves an award from SFJAZZ, and we are just so happy to give it to him tonight with all of you. When Chucho was playing with our High School All-Star on the piano, the way he genuinely is nurturing the next generation of great musicians inspires me, it inspires jazz, and I know it inspires every single person in this room.”

Corinne Bailey Rae

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

After Derheim’s short speech, a series of musicians performed with some paying homage to Valdés. Irakere 45, Omara Portuondo, Dianne Reeves, SFJAZZ Collective, Stefon Harris, Yosvany Terry, Harold Lopéz-Nussa, Leyanis Valdéz, and the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Big Band played sensational jazz. There were two highlights: Corinne Bailey Rae’s sweet rendition of her hit, Put Your Records On, and of course when Valdés took to the stage. Joined by vocalist Dianne Reeves and Cuban singer Omara Portuondo, Valdés sang the classic hit song, Besame Mucho, and a moving finale of Dos Gardenias with the 88-year old Portuondo.

Paul Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi, Darian Swig and Rick Swig

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Notables in attendance at the gala, which supports SFJAZZ’s educational and artistic programs, included Nancy Pelosi, Darian and Rick Swig, Darius Anderson, Dr. Molly Joel Coye, Dale Djerassi, Sabrina and Mick Hellman, Lisa Stone Pritzker, and Joyce Stupski.

Adam Swig, Ben Jaffe and Ben Swig

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Nion McEvoy, Leslie Berriman and Randall Kline

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Ruchi Sanghvi and Diksha Makan

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Bob Fisher and Randi Fisher

Photo Credit: Andrew Caulfield for Drew Altizer Photography

Chucho Valdes

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

Stacey Rackerson and Lyla Rose Holdstein

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography)

Michael Mauze, Alison Mauze, Caroline Sebastiani and Jon Sebastiani

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

Angela Davis, Chucho Valdés and Lorena Salcedo

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Chucho Valdés, Omara Portuondo and Dianne Reeves

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

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