Emilio Valdés is a Cuban drummer and percussionist, with decades of musical experience that span genres from his early roots in Cuban Jazz to pop and rock. He has toured extensively around the world and performed alongside musical greats. He currently lives in New York City where he can be heard in any number of music venues performing with his group, composing music, and teaching percussion.
Born in Havana in 1966 to a musical family that includes legendary pianist grandfather Bebo Valdes and father Chucho Valdes, Emilio forged his own path as a drummer and percussionist, training at Cuba's prestigious Guillermo Tomás Conservatory under Antonio Cortés, Marcos Varcalser, Guillermo Barreto, José Luis “Changuito” Quintana, and the legendary Enrique Plá. He furthered his education at Cuba's premier National Arts School and the Amadeo Roldán School.
When opportunity knocked in Germany, Emilio left his homeland of Cuba and spent the next decade touring extensively across Europe, working with everyone from Fun Factory (MTV-Europe) to the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, saxophonist Craig Handy, organist Lonnie Liston Smith, jazz trumpeter Jerry Gonzales, and Sergio Boré, with whom he recorded Tambores Urbanos.
During his five year stay in Madrid, he performed with Flamenco artists Chano Dominguez, Perico Sambeat, Diego “El Cigala,” El Niño Jose, Potito, El Piraña, and Vicente Amigo (1997 Grammy Winner- Best New Artist). In Barcelona, he accompanied Lalo Shifrin in the Symphony Orchestra. Emilio was a member of The Jerry Gonzalez Band and The Flamenco Pirates (2001), and joined the Bebo Valdés Quartet and Chucho Valdés tours in (2001-2002), as well as celebrated band IRAKERE in 1996 and 1997.
Emilio has performed as part of the Bebo Valdés Big Band Featuring Diego Cigala, Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Big Band and the Chuchito Valdés Band, earning two Grammy Nominations.
Emilio Valdés Band and Quartet have performed at New York institutions like the Village Underground, Minton's, and the Blue Note, including regular collaboration with the Mark Whitfield Band. Emilio debuted his first album, “The Sweet Taste of Freedom" on the Sixteen Eyes label in 2012.
Emilio is also a skilled music instructor. During his stay in Spain, he taught drums and percussion at the Creative Music School (2001-2003). He was also invited to serve as a featured instructor for drumming and percussion clinics by the legendary Max Roach (1996), Giovanni Hidalgo (2002), Gregg Bisonette (2002), and Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez (2001-2003). He currently teaches at musical institutions across New York City.
"Emilio Valdés, a gifted percussionist and scion to the imposing Valdés family of Havana virtuosos"
- Time Out New York, 2013