Bebo Valdés: Cuban Music Legend Dies

Cuban Jazz legend Bebo Valdés has died. He was 94. (Amazon)

Cuban Jazz legend Bebo Valdés has died. He was 94. (Amazon)

Patrick Jarenwattananon of NPR is reporting that Cuban music legend Bebo Valdés has died. The iconic pianist, composer and arranger had recently battled pneumonia, which led to his death.

Jarenwattananon writes:

“Ramón Emilio “Bebo” Valdés Amaro was born in 1918 in a village outside Havana. Trained at conservatory, and having absorbed the sounds of Afro-Cuban street music and American jazz in various ensembles, he became the house pianist and arranger at the Tropicana Nightclub in 1948. The Tropicana was the hottest venue in Havana at the time; many American entertainers performed there, and Valdés became known as the go-to arranger in town for studio dates, film scores and dance numbers. In 1952, he also participated in the first Afro-Cuban descarga, or jam session, recorded in Cuba, where a group improvisation turned into the recording ‘Con Poco Coco.’

But as his career was booming, a revolutionary government took over in Cuba, accompanied by a crackdown on the entertainment industry. In 1960, he left Cuba to play a gig in Mexico City with his own band. He never returned, leaving behind his wife and children. Valdés eventually wound up in Sweden, where he remarried and pursued a quieter music career, often playing piano for cruise ships or in choice hotels.”

One of Valdés’ sons whom he left behind in Cuba, Chucho Valdés developed into a well known jazz pianist, playing with the acclaimed band Irakere. In 1977, Irakere played a date at Carnegie Hall and Bebo Valdés made the trip to reunite with his son, Chucho.  The reconciliation resulted in several collaborations, including the Latin jazz performance film Calle 54 and the duet album Juntos Para Siempre.

Later in life Bebo Valdés, released two Grammy award-winning albums El Arte de Sabor (2001) and Lagrimas Negras (2004). Mr. Valdés was 94.

Read more at NPR.

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