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Bebo Valdés

Bebo Valdés, the supremely gifted 87-year-old pianist, master arranger, and star of Miami's Calle 54 Records, joins the powerful Arturo O'Farrill-directed Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra to perform "Suite Cubana." Valdés describes his grand, Grammy-winning composition as "the realization of a dream."

Valdés radiates a friendly confidence that carries through to the musicians and onto his albums. But when Calle 54 executive producer Fernando Trueba suggested he do a solo piano record, the Cuban maestro balked. He told Trueba that although he liked the idea, he was concerned that, without a band behind him, he might not be able to keep the rhythm steady. The slightly bemused Trueba encouraged him. "The rhythm is inside you," he reminded his friend. Simply titled Bebo, the resulting album spotlights a musician whose insights on rhythm are unquestionable and unwavering once he places his fingers on the keys. Valdés's approach here is grandfatherly: He tells a story that spans many generations. — Andrés Solar


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