RIP Bebo Valdés, master pianist of Cuban music
I discovered this Cuban musician a decade ago, when, as a big fan of Latin (especially Cuban) dance and music, I bought the documentary “Calle 54” when it came out. I had heard the playing of his son Chucho and was very curious how Bebo’s playing might differ. The father had a more old-fashioned style, of course. But he was good.
The most moving scene in the entire film was that of father and son playing together, on two pianos, improvising on the famous Cuban song “La Comparsa” by Ernesto Lecuona. The communication between them and the interplay and contrasts were quite fascinating and touching to me. They got very emotional during their session and I could not help being moved to tears myself. The scene made me think about the story of Bebo’s decision to leave Cuba for Sweden, abandoning his family, and how he met up again with Chucho for this documentary! For me, reflecting on my own relationship with my father over the years (who is still very much alive and well; I see him once or twice a year, and will see him again soon), the scene was electric.
The Bebo/Chucho scene from “Calle 54”
- At the beginning, Bebo starts off with flourishes and then the theme, while Chucho provides a little bit of harmonic filler.
- Then Chucho starts adding more countermelody.
- At 2:01, they smile at each other as Bebo changes the key and lets Chucho take charge. Bebo goes into a lot of elaborate, passionate ornamentation.
- At 2:46, when the melody goes from minor to major, this is when things start getting intense: watch the two looking at each other with increasing emotion.
- At 3:39, Bebo signals to slow things down. They end, slyly without a harmonic resolution. Then Chucho gets up and hugs his father.
Rest in peace, Bebo Valdés.comments powered by Disqus