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Bebo Valdes, Cuban pianist and composer, dies at 94

In 2008, Bebo Valdes, left, celebrated his 90th birthday in Madrid with his son and fellow musician Chucho Valdes.
(Fernando Alvarado / EPA)

Bebo Valdes, the legendary Grammy-winning Cuban pianist, composer and father of his equally accomplished pianist son, Chucho Valdes, has died in Sweden at 94.

During his artistic prime, in the 1940s and ‘50s, the elder Valdes ranked among the key figures of Cuba’s Golden Age of popular music. He served as musical director of the Tropicana Club in Havana, a glamorous showcase of pan-Caribbean sound. His big band, Sabor de Cuba, accompanied Beny More, widely regarded as the most popular Cuban singer of all time, among many other famous performers.

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Valdes also recorded with Nat “King” Cole on the Nelson Riddle-arranged album “Cole Espanol.”

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Following the upheaval of the Cuban Revolution, Valdes left his native country and spent the latter part of his life in Sweden and eventually southern Spain.

Valdes enjoyed a twilight period of rediscovery, after the director Fernando Trueba included him in his 2000 Latin jazz documentary film “Calle 54.” In the early 2000s, Valdes collaborated with Spanish singer Diego Cigala on the flamenco-jazz album “Lagrimas Negras” (Black Tears), a pitch-perfect blend of introspectiveness and passion that drew rapturous critical notices.

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