b. Luis Ramón Valle Sánchez, 29 October 1964, Holguín, Cuba. Valle began playing piano at the age of seven. His studies were first at the Escuela Provincial de Arte in Holguín and he then attended the Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana, graduating from there in 1984. He worked as a music teacher for some years in the mid-80s. A duo concert with fellow Cuban pianist Emiliano Salvador in 1985 brought him to the attention of audiences and critics. Valle subsequently performed at numerous festivals in Central American and Caribbean venues, both as solo artist and as leader of the quartet Brújula. He also worked in bands such as Ramón Huerta’s Grupo Galaxia. In the early 90s he spent two years with Silvio Rodríguez’s band, Diákara. He first performed in Europe at the Jamboree Jazz Club in Barcelona where his success led to more European engagements, including appearances in Amsterdam, Stockholm, Berlin and Paris. In 1998, he settled in Europe and thereafter he toured Germany, Spain and Scandinavia to great acclaim and appeared at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2000 and 2001. On the second of these occasions, saxophonist Jane Bunnett augmented Valle’s quartet. The following year Valle played at the Montreux International Jazz Festival and also at festivals elsewhere in Europe and in his homeland. Early in 2003, Valle premiered at the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam a work commissioned by the city’s Foundation for the Arts, ‘Mixed-up Mokum’. This four-movement piece, written for a 10-piece ensemble, blends jazz and improvised music and is overlaid with classical form. Later that same year, Valle returned to the North Sea Jazz Festival, this time with trumpeter Roy Hargrove joining the band.
Technically, Valle is highly proficient and delivers much of his repertoire with fire and dash although his high energy playing is leavened by a gentle touch with ballads. Rooted though he is in the music of his Cuban heritage, Valle seamlessly blends these forms with contemporary jazz styling and occasional touches of the classical music that formed a part of his education. His Danza Negra (2002), on which he is joined by Perico Sambeat (alto saxophone) and Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernández (percussion), displays many of these qualities in a set comprising the music of Ernesto Lecuona that has been adapted by Valle to a Cuban jazz sound. The lineage of outstanding Cuban jazz pianists has been ably extended through Valle’s work.