This CD is both historic and quite exciting. Bebo Valdes (father of Chucho, the leader of Irakere) was one of the giants of Cuban jazz and popular music until he fled the country in 1960. Amazingly enough, he had not recorded since, despite living peacefully in Sweden. This recording is also significant in that it is one of the first times that Cuban exiles had recorded with Cubans still living under Castro (guitarist Carlos Emilio Morales and percussionist Amadito Valdes). Paquito D'Rivera (who organized this set) deserves a lot of credit for its success, but Valdes is the real star. He composed eight new selections in the 36 hours before the recordings began, although he was 76 years old at the time. Although Valdes claimed that, with the lack of sleep and excess of writing (he also arranged ten of the 11 songs), his fingers felt a bit stiff, he plays quite well throughout the very enjoyable music. The final results are full of strong melodies, stirring rhythms, exciting ensembles, and lots of variety. The instrumentation differs on each track, with plenty of solo space for D'Rivera (on both alto and clarinet), trombonist Juan-Pablo Torres (who takes "Veinte Anos" as a duet with Valdes), trumpeter Diego Urcola, and the pianist. The percussionists work together quite well behind the lead voices, and every selection is well worth hearing. This is one of the finest Afro-Cuban jazz recordings of recent times. Highly recommended.
After this album, Bebo went on to play in "El Arte del Sabor" which won him his first Grammy, he came back in the film "Calle 54", another Grammy winner. Bebo and Flamenco great "El Cigala" teamed up for "Lagrimas Negras" a double Grammy Winner, followed by "Bebo de Cuba", again a Grammy Winner. 5 and counting. He just won (Nov. 2nd, 2006) the Latin Grammy for Best Instrumental CD for his album "Bebo".
And to think all this started when he was 76! He is currently 88 and looking forward to his next recordings.