Revered Latin jazz flautist Dave Valentin died on 8 March 2017 from stroke complications and Parkinson’s disease. He was 64.
The widely-travelled musician was a Grammy winner in 2003 with the album The Gathering, by the Caribbean Jazz Project, which also featured vibraphonist Dave Samuels. Born to Puerto Rican parents in the South Bronx, New York in 1952, he played bongos and congas when he was just five, then piano, and took to the flute at the age of 12.
He later toured with Tito Puente, the Latin jazz instrumentalist that he had idolised, and became music director of Puente’s Golden Latin Jazz All-Stars. Valentin worked with other such notables as Patti Austin, Lee Ritenour and David Benoit, and in an extensive solo catalogue, is perhaps best known for his years on the famed jazz label GRP.
He was the first signing to the company formed by Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen, releasing his debut set Legends for the company in 1979. Valentine continued to make albums for them until 1994’s Tropic Heat. Two of them, Land Of The Third Eye (1980) and the following year’s Pied Piper, made the lower rungs of the main Billboard chart.
“Alone in his class”
In 1999, he released the Sunshower album for Concord Jazz, and further projects ensued on RMM and Highnote. 2004 brought the collaboration The Spirits Up Above with jazz trombonist Steve Turre. Valentin’s last studio album release was 2011’s Pure Imagination; he suffered a stroke during a gig in 2012 and later moved into a nursing home. “Dave has played on six continents,” his manager, Richie Bonilla, told the New York Times in 2014. “He is alone in his class.”
In the same newspaper, percussionist and bandleader Bobby Sanabria said that Valentin was “a true son of the South Bronx wherever he went…he represented excellence as a musician through the flute in the world of jazz.”