The renowned Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés would have turned one hundred years old this coming October. His son, Chucho Valdés, of Irakere fame, and Diego El Cigala, the flamenco singer with whom Bebo recorded the remarkable 2003 album Lagrimas Negras, are among the artists who will pay homage to one of Cuba’s most celebrated musicians at this fall’s Voll-Damm Barcelona International Jazz Festival.
Cigala will honor both Bebo’s centennial and the 15th anniversary of the Grammy-winning album, performing the evergreen boleros and Cuban classics he piercingly inflected with Spanish song on the recording, on which he was accompanied by Bebo’s timeless stylings. The album by the unexpected pair — which reached no. 4 on the Billboard Latin Pop Albums chart — vaulted Cigala to international stages, and was the centerpiece of Bebo’s fabulous late career comeback. He was 84 years old when Lagrimas Negras was released. Bebo died in 2013.
At the just-announced concert on Nov. 14 at Barcelona’s Palau de la Música, Cigala will perform with Jaime Calabuch, known as Jumitus, on piano. Cigala and Jumitus have also been announced for U.S. concerts at the Fillmore Miami Beach (Nov. 9), and at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex in Los Angeles (March 2019).
Chucho Valdés, who was named the Barcelona Festival’s “godfather” in 2014, will open the festival Oct. 26 with music from his 1972 vanguard Cuban jazz album, Jazz Batá, which was influenced by Bebo’s earlier experiments with the sacred Afro-Cuban batá drums. In 1952 in Havana, Bebo premiered his new rhythm called batangá, featuring the batá, which at that time had yet to make the jump from their hallowed place in religious ceremonies to popular music stages. The combination of ritual rhythms and Cuban orchestral arrangements was before its time.
Chucho Valdés will perform with a group of next-generation musicians: Yaroldi Abreu y Dreiser Durruthy Bambolé and Yelsy Heredia, whose playing carries on the innovation characterized by both Chucho and Bebo throughout their careers. Chucho and his band will also perform Jazz Batá in other European cities this fall, and on a jazz cruise from Ft. Lauderdale scheduled for January 2019.
Bassist Javier Colina, who recorded a live album with Bebo at New York’s Village Vanguard in 2005, and Cuban pianist Harold Lopez Nussa, are also part of the jazz festival’s Bebo Valdés tribute, which is a piece of the extensive program of the festival’s 50th anniversary edition. Flamenco guitarist Tomatito, Brazil’s Tribalistas, bassist Avishai Cohen, Malian music duo Amadou & Mariam, jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux, the John Scofield Combo, the Bad Plus and Grupo Compay Segundo are among artists on the event’s October-December concert schedule.