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Portland Jazz Festival: A Celebration of ECM

Arturo O’Farrill introduced the 88-year-old legend Bebo Valdes (pictured) by remarking on his astonishing energy and enthusiasm. O’Farrill also spoke movingly of how working with Bebo had reminded him of the spirit and energy of his late father, Chico O’Farrill. The latter, composer of the classic “Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite” and other orchestral jazz works, was one of several “spirits” evoked by this first U.S. performance of Bebo Valdes’s “Suite Cubana.” Another was that of trombonist Juan Pablo Torres, who passed away last year, and who can be heard on the recorded version of the “Suite Cubana,” and also on Bebo’s 1994 comeback release, Bebo Rides Again (Messidor). Finally, there is the spirit of the slave Cecilio, who cared for Bebo’s grandfather in his last years, and whose memory inspired “El Son de Cecilio,” in which the opening theme serves as the leitmotif for the entire “Suite Cubana.”

Bebo de Cuba (Calle 54) is the collective title for the 2CD release that includes the orchestral “Suite Cubana,” and the more relaxed El Solar de Bebo, a collection of Bebo’s compositions played by a smaller ensemble and inspired by the music Bebo heard in the solares, or patios, of Havana neighborhoods, where musical instruments are improvised from forks, spoons, and drawers.

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