Contact Me By Email

Atlanta, GA Weather from Weather Underground

Jackie McLean

John H. Armwood Jazz History Lecture Nashville's Cheekwood Arts Center 1989

Monday, August 08, 2005

Octogenarian Pianist Bebo Valdés Releases BEBO DE CUBA :: : The Number One Jazz News Resource On The Net :: Jazz News Daily

Octogenarian Pianist Bebo Valdés Releases BEBO DE CUBA :: : The Number One Jazz News Resource On The Net :: Jazz News DailyOctogenarian Pianist Bebo Valdés Releases BEBO DE CUBA
Posted by: eJazzNews Readeron Monday, August 08, 2005 - 03:46 PM
Jazz News Octogenarian Pianist Bebo Valdés Celebrates
Cuban Big Band and Jazz Traditions on 2-CD/DVD
Calle 54 Records Release, BEBO DE CUBA

To say that storied pianist, composer and arranger Bebo Valdés was there when the modern Cuban music tradition was born isn’t a stretch; as a child in the 1920s, he attended concerts by such pioneering groups as Septeto Habanero, Trio Matamoros and pianist Antonio Maria Romeu’s charanga orchestra. Within two decades, his music skills fully developed, Valdes was welcomed into the elite company of his country’s most in-demand music artists. Impressively, as documented on BEBO DE CUBA, a 2-CD/DVD release from Calle 54 Records, the 87-year old maestro’s compositional and arranging instincts are still fertile, his fingers as nimble as ever, and his ability to craft music of extraordinary depth, passion and beauty undiminished by the passing years.

BEBO DE CUBA was co-produced by Spanish filmmaker Fernando Trueba, whose stylish 2000 Miramax documentary and live music film CALLE 54 brought a wide range of jazz-influenced Latin music styles to the big screen for the first time, and Nat Chediak,, Cuban music historian and founder of the Miami Film Festival. The production features Valdés fronting a full big band on one CD, Suite Cubana and a smaller ensemble on the other, El Solar de Bebo. Both sessions feature a veritable who’s who of the Latin jazz world, including musicians who’ve risen to prominence in the service of such fabled leaders as Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill, Mario Bauza, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria and other Cuban and Puerto Rican music icons. Among the first call instrumentalists who respond when Valdés gives the downbeat are saxophonists Paquito D’Rivera and Mario Rivera, bassist Andy Gonzalez, drummers Steve Berrios and Dafnis Prieto, trumpeters Diego Urcola and Michael Philip Mossman, percussionist Milton Cardona, and the late trombonist Juan Pablo Torres. The companion 23-minute DVD, New York Notebook, complements the music through interviews with Valdés conducted in the studio of Miami’s WDNA Public Radio Station, video vignettes of the still spry pianist reminiscing while he walks the streets of Manhattan, interacting with the musicians, conducting the groups, and playing piano.

The eight track Suite Cubana, explains woodwind artist D’Rivera in the release’s informative 52-page booklet, “is a long-cherished project that Bebo dedicates to those who have left their mark on his long and productive life -- a great celebration and a nostalgic tribute to our distant homeland.” The set opens with a showy fanfare that sets the stage for a program of flashy big band orchestrations built on the rhythmic foundation of such revered Afro-Cuban styles as mambo, bembe, son, guaracha, guajira and the leader’s own creation, the batanga.

Written between 1992 and 1997, the suite is Valdés’ way of exploring Afro-Cuban rhythms while paying tribute to his wife Rose Marie, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, close friend Israel Lopez “Cachao,” his famous pianist son Jesus “Chucho” Valdés, and other intimates. On “Cachao, Creador del Mambo,” for instance, Valdés honors the bassist, who made history by inventing the mambo rhythm. “Copla No. 4,” which hints at the melody of the well-known folk tune “Guantanamera” in its opening bars, evolves into a brassy masterpiece that breaks into a double-time gait. Then, it settles into a sultry guajira groove that reveals the pianist’s wit as he quotes “Theme from a Summer Place,” an instrumental hit for bandleader Percy Faith that was popular in 1959 when Valdés was courting his soon-to-be wife.

El Solar de Bebo (Bebo’s Place) presents the pianist and an octet handpicked from the ranks of the big band recording to engage in the kind of free-flowing jam session -- termed a descarga in Cuba -- that became the rage in Havana in much the same way bebop took hold among New York’s best jazz musicians in the years immediately following the close of the big band era in the post World War II years. The sessions, writes musicologist Chediak in the booklet, “are direct descendants of the ones Bebo recorded for Norman Granz more than half a century ago, penning an essential chapter in the history of Cuban jazz.”

Born Dionisio Ramon Emilio Valdés Amaro in 1918 in the small town of Quivican in the province of Havana, Valdés initiation into the world of music came as he learned to sing and play the claves. After the family moved to Havana, he studied at the Municipal Conservatory. A love of jazz came early in his career, which took off in 1943 when he was hired as an arranger for music ensembles employed by Radio Mil Diez (Radio 1010), a broadcast entity owned by the country’s small Communist Party.

In 1948, he began a decade-long stint as an arranger and pianist at the city’s famed Tropicana nightclub. During the 1950s, he recorded prolifically for several Cuban labels. In 1960, shortly after Fidel Castro assumed power in the country, Valdés left all behind for exile, eventually settling in 1963 in Sweden, where he lived in relative obscurity until D’Rivera urged him to come back into the international spotlight and record in 1994 Bebo Rides Again for Germany’s Messidor label. An appearance in the film CALLE 54 brought more attention, reinforced by the issuance in 2001 of El Arte del Sabor. Lagrimas Negras, a Calle 54 Records release that pared the veteran Cuban pianist with the Spanish gypsy singer Cigala, emerged in 2004 as one of the most talked about jazz albums of the year.

BEBO DE CUBA is indeed a celebration -- not only of the enduring popularity of a music tradition that has held a global audience in a trance for over half a century but of the endurance and the undiminished creative spirit of one of the idiom’s more important practitioners. With the passing in recent years of such contemporaries as “Chico” O’Farrill and Mario Bauza, Valdés stands as one of the last of a generation of multi-talented Cuban musicians who played central roles in defining the state of Cuban music today. BEBO DE CUBA, a truly singular release in every regard, is the consummate tribute to a master musician whose influence on the music of our time will remain a topic of discussion for decades to come, Bebo Valdés.

Release Date: September 13, 2005

For additional information please contact
Diana Nazareth/DL MEDIA at

No comments:

Post a Comment