Bebo Valdés Exhibit Coming to NYC

Afro-Cuban pioneer to be feted by Nat’l Jazz Museum in Harlem

Bebo Valdés
Bebo and Chucho Valdes

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“Bebo Valdes-Giant of Cuban Music,” an exhibit focusing on the Afro-Cuban music pioneer, is set to open Sept. 16 at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. A reception, open to the public, will take place that evening from 5-7 p.m. at the museum, in the museum’s visitors center at 104 E. 126th Street.

In connection to the exhibit, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem will present Tuesday night screening and listening sessions with Ned Sublette. Highlights of the exhibit, as provided in a press release, are as follows:

September 9

7 p.m. at the Maysles Cinema, 343 Lenox Avenue
Old Man Bebo

Screening of the 111-minute biographical film by Carlos Carcas, which features Bebo Valdés, Chucho Valdés, the Valdés families, Omara Portuondo, Pío Leyva, Israel López “Cachao,” Guillermo Álvarez Guedes, Paquito D’Rivera, Fernando Trueba, Cesar Portillo De La Luz, Ángel Díaz, Leonardo Acosta. Preceded by a brief introduction by Ned Sublette and a brief Q & A after.

September 16

5-7 p.m. exhibit opening reception at the National Museum in Harlem

7pm – Listening Session with Ned Sublette
The Strangeness of Bebo’s Century

Exploring Bebo Valdés’s career as one of the originators of the big-band style mambo, the first jazz musician in Cuba to record a jam session; arranger, music director, and sometimes mentor for recordings by many famous Cuban singers, including Rolando La Serie, Pío Leyva, Celeste Mendoza, Fernando Álvarez, and many more; the high-profile pianist of the famed Tropicana orchestra, personally selected by Nat “King” Cole to be the pianist on his Havana recordings; the creator of the batanga rhythm that brought sacred batá drum rhythms into popular music; the star of an unprecedented 21st-century career renaissance with a string of new music and film productions made while he was in his 80s, including the international hit album Lágrimas Negras with flamenco singer Diego El Cigala; and much more.

September 23

7 p.m. at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem
Bebo Con Poco Coco

When U.S. jazz producer Norman Granz visited Havana in 1952, Bebo Valdés recorded the first Cuban descarga, or jam, for him. The name of the number, “Con Poco Coco,” means something like “Without Forethought.” In that spirit, we’re going to play some of Bebo’s smoking-est numbers from the period when he was a leader in Cuban music. SPECIAL GUEST: RENÉ L?”PEZ.

September 30

7 p.m. at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem

Bebo’s Student: Chucho Valdés

This session looks at the career of Bebo’s son, Chucho Valdés, who is today one of the world’s great pianists. Chucho began playing piano at about the age of three; he doesn’t remember not playing it. He tagged along with Bebo everywhere, played four-handed piano with him at home, observed him at work, and subbed for him on gigs until Bebo left Cuba in 1960. Then the 18-year-old Chucho became his family’s sole support, and in 1973, with the success of the tune “Bacalao Con Pan,” Chucho’s band Irakere became famous in Cuba. Bebo and Chucho did not communicate for eighteen years, then reunited backstage at Carnegie Hall in 1978. Their relationship grew over subsequent decades into a close collaboration in Bebo’s final years.

For more information visit the museum here.