Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes dies in Sweden at age 94

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Valdes was not able to see his increasingly well-known and Cuba-based son Chucho until 1978 when he visited New York for the first time in 18 years and attended a concert.

The father often told an anecdote of how a Cuban regime minder came up to him after the concert and said, “See how well we have shaped your son?”

He said he retorted, “I’m very glad, but when was that? Because Chucho played piano at home with me when he was four years old and at 16 he joined a band called Sabor de Cuba, my band.”

Valdes‘ career got a late boost in 1994 when he teamed up with saxophone player Paquito D’Rivera to release a CD called “Bebo Rides Again.”

“All musicians want to be famous and I think I’ve recently experienced some of the biggest moments of my life,” Valdes told Svenska Dagbladet.

Nine years later Valdes worked with Spanish singer-songwriter Diego Cigala on “Lagrimas Negras,” a flamenco-jazz fusion style CD that won Best Record of the Year by the New York Times. The experience attracted him to Spain where he settled after leaving Stockholm.

Valdes then worked with Chucho to release the CD “Juntos para Siempre” (Together Forever) in 2009. The father and son toured Europe at least twice.

Valdes won five Grammy Award in the categories of Best traditional tropical album and Best Latin jazz albums: two for “El arte del sabor” in 2002, one for “Lagrimas Negras” in 2004 and two for “Bebo de Cuba” in 2006.

Asked how he found the energy to keep performing he said, “What else would I do? Watch TV? No, I’d rather play the piano. I will play until I die.”

Valdes is survived by wife Rose Marie, daughters Mayra and Miriam, sons Raul, JesusChucho,” and Ramon (born in Cuba) and Raymond and Rickard, who are Swedish.


Associated Press correspondents Karl Ritter in Stockholm and Sigal Ratner-Arias in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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