Cuban pianist, composer and arranger Bebo Valdes talking to Ned Sublette in Bomb Magazine in 2002 about why he left Cuba for good:
In ‘56 when the revolution began, bombs started sounding in Havana. And on a famous night in Havana, [January 1, 1957], we were playing in the two salons of the Tropicana—one was under the stars and the other, the summer salon, had air conditioning, but there were nights they had to open both because there were so many people. That night there were more than three thousand people.
There was a divine young girl very near my back, close to the piano, and apparently there was a pocketbook near her—I don’t know, but they say it was that—and that girl was seated there at a table with her friends and family. She was dancing, then she came and sat down, and there was an explosion, and it tore off her left arm…very very near my back. The palm tree covered me, so nothing hit me. It could have hit me, and it could have hit Kiki Hernández, who was at my side. They took her out on a stretcher.
Valdes died Friday at age 94.
We’ve got some big Bebo fans on the staff here, so I asked them for their Bebo recommendations. Here’s what they passed along:
Roberta Shorrock, director: Route 66.
Danny Miller, executive producer: Two recommendations. 1) Bebo. We played the third track — “Danza No. 1” — off this album at the end of today’s show. 2) Bebo Valdes & Javier Colina: Live at the Village Vanguard.”
Terry Gross, host: The Chico and Rita soundtrack. It’s not exclusively Bebo’s music, but it features a lot of his work. Chico and Rita (the animated film) is loosely based on Bebo’s life and music. We did an interview with the film’s co-director Fernando Trueba a year ago which you can listen to here.
Image above is a still from the Chico and Rita film