Many of the top Cuban jazz musicians have played in Irakere
during the past several decades, including altoist Paquito D'Rivera
and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval
(before both individually defected). Pianist Chucho Valdes
has been the orchestra's longtime leader, and its music ranges from Latin jazz and bop to Cuban folk melodies, with an emphasis on infectious rhythms and advanced improvisations. Several of Irakere
's records have been made available domestically (including sets for Columbia and Jazz House), but the exciting band was not able to visit the United States until 1996. The album Toda Cuba Baila con Irakere
followed two years later.