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FRONT PAGE - PRIMERA PLANA
Bebo Joins The Descarga Upstairs
In Memoriam: Bebo Valdés 9 October 1918 - 22 March 2013
(Photo courtesy Bebo's Facebook profile)
One of the true giants of Cuban music, composer/bandleader/pianist Ramón Emilio Valdés Amaro, whom we all know as Bebo Valdés, passed away on Friday, March 22 in Sweden at the age of 94.
Bebo was born in Quivicán, Cuba on October 9, 1918, slightly less than a month after another key figure in the music, Israel "Cachao" Lopez. Bebo began playing piano at about 7 years of age and entered the conservatory in Havana at age 16. He later began playing piano in the nightclubs of Havana in the 1940s and worked as an arranger in the mid 40s with the great Ernest Lecuona. From the late 1940s to the late 1950s, he was at the Tropicana, and his band, Sabor de Cuba, was one of the groups that regularly backed legendary performers such as Pio Leyva and Beny More. He was also the arranger and pianist for Rita Montaner during that period. In 1960, he went to Mexico for a time where he worked in television and the studios and ultimately settled into a decades-long residency in Stockholm in 1963.
Bebo helped further the development of the Mambo and also created an additional rhythm, the Batanga, which competed with the Mambo in Cuba. He also participated in some of the historic Afro-Cuban Jazz recording sessions commissioned by Norman Granz in the 1950s and was a pioneer in the use of the bata in popular dance music. In the late 1950s, he also made a recording with Nat King Cole. He endured a period of relative obscurity internationally after moving to Europe, but in 1994, the recording Bebo Rides Again (his first album after three decades of mostly playing hotels in Stockholm and mentoring other musicians) helped revive international awareness of him. That awareness spread even further after Bebo's appearance in the 2000 film Calle 54 (a film which absolutely belongs in your collection if you haven't purchased it already) and his 2003 album Lagrimas Negras with Diego El Cigala, which fused Cuban rhythms with flamenco vocals. He went on to win multiple Latin GRAMMYs and GRAMMYs including two for El arte del sabor (2002), one for Lagrimas Negras (2003), two for Bebo de Cuba (2006). His album with his son Chucho Valdés, Juntos Para Siempre, won both a GRAMMY and a Latin GRAMMY award (2009) for Best Latin Jazz Album. In films, he also appeared in 2004's El milagro de Candeal, and more recently, he composed the score for the wonderful film Chico y Rita, which also drew some pieces of its plot from aspects of his life.
In addition to all of his personal musical accomplishments, he is also the founder of an important musical dynasty including his son Chucho Valdés (whose many milestones include his key role in Irakere) and his grandson Chuchito Valdés. The 2009 3-CD set Dinastia Valdés showcases music by all three of them.
His full discography is extensive, and given his work in multiple countries over several decades, we are uncertain as to whether a truly complete one even exists at this writing. We'll close for now by sharing a You Tube clip from Calle 54 posted by the Instituto de Musica Contemporanea in Lima of Bebo and Cachao performing Lagrimas Negras. We chose this particular clip for a couple of reasons: one, it's a beautiful clip; two, there are some parallels between these two men. They were born a few weeks apart, both were classically trained yet also revolutionized both popular Cuban dance music and Afro-Cuban Jazz, both had major career comebacks after periods of being out of the public eye, and (perhaps most noteworthy), both had long lives (Cachao passed at age 89, Bebo at age 94) while pursuing an endeavor that the popular imagination sometimes believes to be an eater of its own young. An interesting coincidence is that Cachao also passed on the 22nd of March in 2008. For today's young musicians, there are lessons here about the value of formal musical education and a lifestyle that doesn't cause your departure before you turn 50.
Goodbye Bebo, and thank you for all that you left us. We would say "Descanse en paz", but our guess is that you are probably already jamming with some of those other cats who came before.
Timba.com Special: Audio Clips of the AC Jazz Project
EP recording due out soon; Live at Yoshi's Saturday, March 23
The AC Jazz Project, as we mentioned on March 16, is group of all stars - the leader/trumpeter Josiel Perez played with Maraca and Klimax; pianist Fermin Sifontes played with Grupo Afrocuba; bassist Carlos Cuba played with Pablo Milanes and Klimax, and drummer Jimmy Branly has played with NG La Banda and Ernán López Nussa. The group also features conguero Joey De Leon, vocalist Alberto Tomayo, trumpeter Ronal Segovia and saxophonist Camilo Puche. The group is playing at Yoshi's in San Francisco on Saturday, March 23 (the ticket link is here), and Timba.com has been given permission to post brief excerpts from two of the songs that will be on their forthcoming recording (an EP is due out very soon; we are told that a limited number of copies should be available at the concert). We have heard the entire songs, as you will have the opportunity to do if you attend the concert. Some of these tracks are smoking.
Here is the first sound excerpt, from Dale Paso:
And here is the second, an excerpt from Con que tu cuentas:
Tom's ACAS Photos, Pt. III
Book News: Thanks to the efforts of Vasík Greif the new beyondsalsa.info web site has been launched - everything in one place. There's even a Beyond Salsa Blog. Facebook page is next! Also, the beginning bass book is almost done. Stay tuned!
The Chicago International Salsa Congress - A Timbero's Perspective
Part III: More Comments, Photos and Some Music Samples
Article and all Photos by Bill Tilford, All Rights Reserved
(This installment is for both Salseros and Timberos in the hope that they may remember that there are some common challenges that are faced by all.)
Welcome to the third installment of our series. We'll have a lot of photos later on along with the first in a series of sound clips that we hope will help illustrate that many common misconceptions about both "Cuban Salsa" and Timba music are exactly that. In the meantime, I would like to expand a little on some earlier themes from the first two chapters.... read the full article here >>>