Bebo Valdés

Let's go for a simple explanation of Bebo de Cuba. It is a double album that should be distributed for free in music schools, because it works perfectly as a delicate lesson on how to play most of the music genres that have Afro-Caribbean blood, be they mambo, danzón, son, guaracha, guajira-montuno, batanga, guaguanco, or joropo. But there's something nobody can teach in school — class. You have it or you don't. Piano man Bebo Valdés, age 87, a father figure in the golden era of Cuban music, is all grace. On disc one, Suite Cubana, he goes for a lush instrumentation sustained by a twenty-piece band that is easily one of the best in Latin jazz. The album is a nostalgic tribute to the country Valdés left more than 45 years ago. On disc two, El Solar de Bebo, a ten-piece band adds wisdom and economy, even in deliciously jazzy jams, to pieces Valdés wrote in the early Nineties that channel the mid-Forties. Surprisingly his music still feels fresh and impossible to imitate.

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Javier Andrade