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Bebo Valdes: Bebo de Cuba

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Cuban pianist, composer and arranger Bebo Valdes is blossoming again. After decades of near obscurity, the 87-year-old Valdes’ mus-ic and his crucial role in the narrative of 20th-century Cuban music history are being discovered by a new generation of fans, thanks to Spanish film maker Fernando Trueba’s 2000 documentary Calle 54 and last year’s Lagrimas Negras project with flamenco singer Diego El Cigala. However, the sumptuous two-CD and DVD Bebo de Cuba shows off the living master to dazzling effect, making clear Valdes’ still-brilliant virtuosity and empathy.

Featuring a host of stellar younger colleagues like clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, this set lovingly lingers over varied facets of Valdes’ work. The first disc is dedicated to Valdes’ “Suite Cubana.” Written in eight movements for big band, it’s an exuberant, lushly orchestrated, fiery and yet courtly survey of Afro-Cuban rhythms, set out in a series of loving portraits of friends and family. The second disc, “El Solar de Bebo (Bebo’s Place),” sees Valdes in a more intimate and loose–but no less brilliant–octet setting. The brief but charming DVD, New York Notebook, captures Valdes working in the studio, recounting stories and strolling city streets.