Dave Valentin, Grammy-Winning Latin Jazz Flute Master, Dies At 64

Dave Valentin, a Grammy-award winning Latin jazz flute virtuoso, has died on Wednesday in the Bronx, the NPR reports. He was 64.

Valentin recorded and released dozens of albums throughout his career as a Latin jazz musician.

His manager, Richie Bonilla, said that Dave Valentin suffered multiple strokes over the years and died on Wednesday due to stroke complications and Parkinson’s disease.

Valentin won a Grammy award for best Latin jazz album in 2003 for The Gathering, which was released by the Caribbean Jazz Project and featured legendary vibraphonist Dave Samuels. For seven consecutive years he was named best jazz flutist by readers of Jazzis magazine. Throughout his career Dave Valentin recorded more than dozen albums either as band leader or solo artist. Valentin collaborated with many notable musicians including Patti Austin, Chris Connor and Nnenna Freelon, guitarist Lee Ritenour, pianist McCoy Tyner’s Afro-Cuban All-Stars, and more.

A Bronx native raised by Puerto Rican parents, Valentin started playing congas and timbales when his dad, who was a member of Merchant Marine, brought them home from Brazil. When Valentin was nine he started taking piano lessons. Valentin started playing percussion on paid gigs at age 10.

“At that time I was like a novelty playing with men,” he said in an interview with the Hamilton College Jazz Archive in 2000. “I was a little kid on timbales.”

As a teenager Dave Valentin was drawn to a girl who plays the flute, and to charm her, he switched instruments with her and taught himself how to play. He fell in love with the instrument and went on to become one of the best flutists in Latin jazz.

Valentin spoke in great length about how his encounter with the girl turned him into a flutist, as reported by The New York Times.

“I started out as a percussionist in school. But I wanted to meet this girl, Irene, who was a flutist,’ he recalled in 2011.”

“She showed me a scale, and I played it immediately. Do-re-me-fa-so-la-ti-do. Without knowing nothing! So, I borrowed a flute, bought a Herbie Mann record and learned “Comin’ Home Baby.”

“Three weeks later, I went to her and played it,’ he continued. ‘I knew I had her! She said, “I’ve been taking lessons for three years and you come in here in three weeks and play like that? Don’t ever talk to me again!”

” ‘I lost the girl, but kept the flute.'”

After graduating from the High School of Music and Art, Valentin was mentored by legendary jazz flutist Hubert Laws. He then studied at Bronx Community College before working as a music teacher.

“I taught seventh, eighth, and ninth grade music for three years in the South Bronx,” Dave said. “I had a jazz band and taught them how to play, so when they graduated they were ready.”

For several years Dave Valentin served as musical director for bandleader Tito Puento, who also happens to be his childhood idol, and then toured with Manny Oquendo’s conjunto group Libre.

While Mr. Valentin often toured around the world, he maintained a home in the Harding Park section of the Bronx. He taught music in a public school setting at the Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education.

As a Latin jazz musician, Dave Valentin was praised by music critics on a regular basis. Jon Pareles of The New York Times in a 1984 review that he “plays with a sultry tone and dizzyingly agile technique, and his solos dart in and around his quintet’s Latin and funk rhythms.

Bobby Sanabria, percussionist and bandleader, hailed Dave Valentin as “a true son of the South Bronx wherever he went,” and that he “represented excellence as a musician through the flute in the world of jazz.”

[Featured Image by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]