Bronx-born flutist Dave Valentin, who started out playing percussion before he taught himself to play the flute after listening to Herbie Mann, died much too young yesterday. He was only 64. Dave had suffered a stroke and heart attack in 2012 and another stroke in 2015.
Dave Valentin studied with Hubert Laws and was the first act to be signed to GRP Records, formed by Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen. He released his “Legends” LP in 1978 and he also was the one who brought his friend Angela Bofill to the label where she immediately gained success with her first two albums. Dave can be heard on a solo on “Baby, I Need Your Love” from the “Angie” LP. Previously, he was heard on Patti Austin’s “Havana Candy” and on an album by Noel Pointer.
Dave’s very unique fusion style, combining Latin music with funk, jazz, and soul, always culminated in extremely positive and joyful outputs which can be heard on over a dozen albums for GRP and for Concord and HighNote and various other labels. And he also always made sure that there was a classic jazz or pop piece on each of his albums, done in his own, inimitable style. On “Legends”, it was “Afro Blue”, on his second album “The Hawk”, it was “Blackbird” (the album also features Angela Bofill on “We’ll Make Love”), on his third album it was E,W&F’s “Fantasy” and so on. His own compositions always exuded optimism and strength, like the title track from his 1985 LP “Jungle Fever” for example. There is so much to explore in his discography: his vibrant talent and excitement for the music is best displayed on his live album “Live At The Blue Note” (GRP, 1988) and he finally got the chance to record with his hero Herbie Mann on “Two Amigos” (GRP, 1990), an album that ranks among the definitive flute fusion jams with intoxicating cuts such as “Bronx Bad Boys” or “Moonlight Walk”.
But there are also some very disco-type sounds on his 1983 LP “Flute Juice” where singer Bruni Pagan belts out the Donna Summer “She Works Hard For The Money”-like “Loquita (Crazy Lady)”. Elsewhere on the LP, you can sense some Mtume production sensibilities, too (Dennis Bell produced a couple of tracks). Dave stayed true to his musicians most of his career, with pianist and keyboardist Bill O’Connell, bassist Lincoln Goines, and drummer Robbie Ameen playing on most of his albums. He stayed away from using keyboards and his more fusiony sound on his HighNote albums “World On A String” (2005), “Come Fly With Me” (2006), and “Pure Imagination” (2011), opting for a more straight-ahead sound, but always including his compassionate Latin roots which almost always had a very stimulating effect. I’m still cherishing his own “Drop A Dime” or Bill O’Connell’s “Mind Games”, among many others.
“I was always happy when my father came home. He brought all these gifts for us…he used to bring back a lot of Brazilian Carnival records and he played them for us. I think that affected me a lot. He also brought back a lot of percussion instruments, congas, bongos, a lot of weird instruments. I started playing music when I was 10, I played percussion. That’s how I got into music.” (From the liner notes of “World On A String”.)