07/08/08

Cuban Piano Legend Bebo Valdes, 89, to Release Live Album

Bebo Valdes, Cuban pianist and living record of jazz history, will release a new recording, Live at the Village Vanguard , on Sept. 2.

The 14-track album, recorded at a November 2005 performance, contains an array of original compositions, boleros and Cuban classics by Ernesto Lecuona. Also included is Valdes’ take on Bill Evans’ “Waltz for Debby,” which was performed by Evans at the Vanguard in 1961.

Valdes, who will turn 90 on Oct. 19, is well-known for his classic blend of Cuban music and jazz. Playing along with Valdes during the Vanguard performance was double bassist Javier Colina. Valdes referred to Colina as “one of the best bass players I have played with in my entire life, and certainly the most accomplished.”

Valdes got his start as a pianist in Havana, Cuba and went on to become the musical director of the illustrious Tropicana Club. From the late ’40s through the early ’50s, Valdes worked with acts like Nat “King” Cole and Sarah Vaughan. During those years, Valdes became well-known as one of Cuba’s finest jazz pianists, as well as a composer, arranger and band director.

But as the Communist revolution grew stronger during the ’50s, culminating with the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Valdes created the Sabor de Cuba Orchestra as a means to leave the country. He eventually settled in Sweden in the mid-’60s, and remained there until moving to Spain in 2007.

Though Valdes officially retired in 1990, contemporary Cuban saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera reached out to him four years later for a recording session. The collaboration resulted in 1995’s Bebo Rides Again.

Since then, Valdes has released numerous award-winning albums, including 2005’s Bebo De Cuba, which received a Latin Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album.

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