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Jazz musician Bebo Valdes passes away

Jazz musician Bebo Valdes passes away

THE Cuban jazz musician Bebo Valdes has passed away. He was 94.

After initial success as a young man, Mr. Valdes had to wait until the early 1990s before his career was revived and his music became more widely known.

As a young man he had studied classical music, but he was to develop his musical skills playing African-influenced rumba on the streets of Havana. In what is regarded as the golden age of the Cuban capital, Mr. Valdes worked at the famous Tropicana Club where he was a big band leader and arranger.

It was during this period that he wrote one of his first mambo songs.

But he left Cuba in 1960 as Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries were taking over. 

After touring in the U.S. and Europe, he got married and settled down in Stockholm in 1963. For a long period Mr. Valdes restricted his musical activities to playing piano in bars and restaurants.

It was not until 1994 that his international career was sparked into life by a new album, Bebo Rides Again, in which he collaborated with Cuban saxophonist and clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera.

His reputation was further enhanced when in 2000 he appeared in the documentary film Calle 54 in which he played with his son and fellow jazz pianist Chucho Valdes (see below).

Mr. Valdes went on to win five Grammy Awards: two for El Arte del Sabor (2000), one for Lagrimas Negras (2004), see below, and two for Bebo de Cuba (2006).

In recent years, Mr. Valdes had been living in Spain. However, he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and had recently returned to Sweden where he passed away.

To see an excerpt from Calle 54 in which Bebo Valdes appears in a duet with his son Chucho Valdes, click here.

To see Bebo Valdes playing Lágrimas Negras with Javier Colina, click here.

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