Bebo Valdés, piano & Javier Colina, bass – Live at the Village Vanguard – Calle54 Records

by | Sep 30, 2008 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Bebo Valdés, piano & Javier Colina, bass – Live at the Village Vanguard – Calle54 Records  8869 721111 2, 1 hr. ***** [Distr. by Sony BMG] [Release date: Sept. 30, 08]:

The Cuban piano giant  – 86 years old – performs tunes he had not recorded for many decades, if ever, doing this historic live stint in NYC. The album has already been nominated for a Latin Grammy for Best Instrumental Album, adding to Bebo’s past five Latin Grammies.  Bebo Valdes is the father of Chucho Valdes and music director of the Tropicana in Havana. Along with bassist Israel “Cachao” Lopez, he played a major part in the early development of the mambo, and appeared with Lopez in the wonderful music documentary Calle 54.

These super-elegant ticklings of ivory are sometimes minimally-noted, and other times it sounds like four hands are busy at that keyboard and not just two. Colina has plenty of accomplished chops up his sleeve too – listen to his bowed solos on Siboney and El Manisero, for example. In fact the two performers, without even a rhythm section, succeed in some of the numbers in producing as buoyant Latin rhythms as a whole salsa band. Several of the tracks are Cuban boleros, three originals by Valdes are heard, there’s a not-very-Latin-sounding treatment of Jerome Kern’s Yesterdays, and the 14-track program concludes with the very appropriate Waltz for Debby – because Valdes is playing at the same location where Bill Evans once introduced his best-known tune.  There’s not as much wild improvisation as some of the Cuban pianists, but Valdes plays with great purity and conjures up what you might have heard in a small Havana nightclub in the 1950s.


1. Con Poco Coco
2. Sabor a Mí
3. Ritmando el Cha-Cha-Cha
4. Rosa Mustia
5. Andalucía
6. Siboney
7. Tres Palabras
8. Aquellos Ojos Verdes
9. Bilongo
10. Si Te Contara
11. Bebo’s Blues
12. Yesterdays
13. Manisero
14. Waltz for Debby

 – John Henry

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