Bebo Valdes

Biography

Bebo Valdes is a giant of Cuban music, but like many Cuban musical giants, he went into hibernation for decades after the revolution. A conservatory-trained piano prodigy, Valdes came of age in the 1940s and '50s, back when Havana was a playground for wealthy Americans and his club, the Tropicana, was a required stop. A sought-after arranger, bandleader and musical director, Valdes performed with a stellar cast of visitors that included Sarah Vaughan and Nat King Cole in the Tropicana's heyday, but as the revolution began, he left the club to avoid the escalating violence. Unable to find work, he formed an orchestra, Sabor De Cuba, as a pretext to leave the country and defected to Mexico. While touring in Sweden, Valdes met and eventually married a Swedish woman. He then spent decades in that country playing restaurants, cruises and hotels in obscurity until Paquito D'Rivera sought him out in 1994 for some recording sessions. Bebo Rides Again dropped that year, and suddenly the virtuosic pianist and bandleader was in vogue again -- he was featured in the film Calle 54 and formed a trio with Patato and Cachao. In his ninth decade, Valdes continues to perform.
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