Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes has celebrated his 90th birthday in Madrid ahead of a tour of Spain with his son Chucho.
The pair have toured the country together before, and between Oct. 23 and Nov. 15 they will perform in eight Spanish cities.
Bebo Valdes was presented with a platinum disc by Sony BMG Spain president Carlos Lopez for the sale of one million units of his 2004 CD with gypsy flamenco singer Diego El Cigala, “Lagrimas Negras.”
The birthday presentation was followed by the premiere of the documentary “Old Man Bebo” by Carlos Carcas. There was also a play of the album “Bebo & Chucho – Juntos Para Siempre” (Calle 54/Sony BMG Spain), which was released on Oct. 7.
This is the first album on which Bebo appears together with his multi-Grammy winning son Chucho Valdes, who was also born on Oct. 9, and who celebrated his 67th birthday with Bebo. On the CD the two play Latin jazz, boleros, blues, and traditional Cuban music.
The birthday party was staged at at Madrid’s Casa de America palace during the city’s weeklong VivAmerica festival. It marked the 1492 discovery of America on Oct. 12 by Christopher Colombus, and the festival was staged simultaneously in the Colombian capital, Bogota, and the Canary Island city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife off west Africa.
There was also a roundtable discussion with Miami-based record producer and Latin music specialist Nat Chediak, Spanish government secretary of state for Ibero-America Trinidad Jimenez, and Bebo and Chucho. The talk included a live video conference with the album’s other co-producer, director Fernando Trueba, who is filming his latest movie in Chile, South America.
Bebo and Chucho have won nearly 10 Grammy and Latin Grammy awards between them, but in Bebo’s case his recognition was down to the re-discovery of him in 1999 in Sweden.
In the 1950s, Bebo was a major figure in Cuba’s music scene and played in and directed several jazz bands. But in 1961, he quit Cuba for good after differences with the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro. Bebo left behind his family, including the teenage Chucho, who was already a recognized pianist.
After a stint in Mexico, Bebo went to the Swedish capital Stockholm, where he spent 40 years as an anonymous pianist in a hotel piano bar. For several years, there was little contact or conversation between father and son, who still lives in Cuba. But Trueba persuaded them to play together for the first time in decades for his Latin jazz documentary “Calle 54,” which was released in 2000.
Bebo and his wife now live on the southern Spanish coast, and Bebo joked that what they both miss most is the Swedish winter.
Introducing himself as “an Afro-Iberian man,” Bebo said of his relationship with his son: “I used to think we would never see each other again, and now we have the chance to be together and to record what we do at home. Maybe that is a compensation for all those years of uncertainty”.