Valentin was born to Puerto-Rican parents in The Bronx in New York City. He attended The High School of Music & Art. He learned percussion at an early age, and by 10 was playing conga and timbales professionally. When he was 12, he took up flute so he could get a know a girl in school who played the flute, Irene Cathcart. He borrowed a flute, bought a Herbie Mann record, and started to teach himself. Years later, he recorded an album with Mann called Two Amigos. He took lessons from Hubert Laws, who became his mentor.
In the 1970s Valentin combined Latin music with jazz in bands with Bill O’Connell, Lincoln Goines, Richie Morales, Robby Ameen, Sammy Figueroa, and Giovanni Hidalgo. He was the first musician signed to GRP Records, a label founded by Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen that specialized in smooth jazz, jazz fusion, and jazz-pop. He recorded his debut album with Ricardo Marrero in 1977. Over time he recorded with Noel Pointer, Patti Austin, Lee Ritenour, Chris Connor, David Benoit, Eliane Elias, and Nnenna Freelon.
For seven years in a row he was chosen best jazz flautist by readers of Jazziz magazine. In 1985 he received a Grammy Award nomination. In 2003 he won a Grammy for Caribbean Jazz Project, an album he did with Dave Samuels.
In March of 2012 Valentin had a stroke which left him partially paralyzed and unable to perform. In 2015, David suffered a second stroke. David is working very hard to overcome his disabilities and requires full care in an extended care facility. He and Irene have remained friends for 53 years. She is very active in his care and recovery and runs a group on Facebook “Friends Of Dave Valentin.” Contrary to the story David told around the world, he never “Lost The Girl.” “FRIENDS” is David’s way to keep in touch with his peers, friends and fans and is constantly updated. Irene welcomes everyone to please join and post pictures, stories, their memories with David. Personal Notes , Addition of David’s Page ” Friends Of Dave Valentin” on Facebook by Irene Cathcart, Personal Friend of Davids Since 1964
- Havana Candy (CTI, 1977)
- Legends (GRP, 1979)
- The Hawk (GRP, 1980)
- Land of the Third Eye (GRP, 1980)
- I Got It Right This Time (Arista, 1981)
- Pied Piper (GRP, 1981)
- In Love’s Time (Arista/GRP, 1982)
- Flute Juice (GRP, 1983)
- Kalahari (GRP, 1984)
- GRP Live in Session (GRP, 1985)
- Jungle Garden (GRP, 1985)
- Light Struck (GRP, 1986)
- Mind Time (GRP, 1987)
- Live at the Blue Note (GRP, 1988)
- Two Amigos (GRP, 1990)
- Musical Portraits (GRP, 1992)
- Red Sun (GRP, 1993)
- Tropic Heat (GRP, 1994)
- Sunshower (Concord Jazz, 1999)
- Primitive Passions (RMM, 2005)
- World on a String (Highnote, 2005)
- Come Fly With Me (Highnote, 2006)
- Pure Imagination (Highnote, 2011)
- “Dave Valentin”. All About Jazz. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
- Rye, Howard (2002). Kernfeld, Barry, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. 3 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove’s Dictionaries Inc. p. 172. ISBN 1-56159-284-6.
- Gonzalez, David (3 June 2011). “Dave Valentin Hangs With Cool Cats, at Home and David performed his first song at their Spring Concert ~Wes Montgomery’s ~ “The Joker” along with his Jazz Quartet. Away”. The New York Times. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
- “A Special Valentine for Dave Valentin”. The Bronx Chronicle. 6 January 2014. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
- Gonzalez, David (5 January 2014). “Latin Jazz Stalwart Struggles to Make Sweet Sounds Again”. The New York Times. Retrieved 22 August 2016.