Bebo Valdes at his 90th birthday concert in Oct. 2008. Photo Credit: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images
Pianist Bebo Valdes doesn't seem to know the meaning of retirement.
At 90 years of age he has a new album out, Juntos Para Siempre (Together Forever). It's a series of duets with his son, Cuban music icon Chucho Valdes. For 10 tracks, father and son "converse" over a shared family history that spans the entire history of 20th Century Cuban piano styles, with sprinkles of U.S. jazz.
"Perdido," from Bebo Valdes and Chucho Valdes, Juntos Para Siempre. Bebo Valdes, piano; Chucho Valdes, piano. Madrid, Spain: Jun. 26-27, 2007.
I had the great fortune of meeting don Bebo (as we Latins refer to someone of age and wisdom) in 2006, when I did a piece about him. I was nervous, as I was about to meet the living legend. But I was quickly put at ease by his interest in my cargo pants.
Valdes shook my hand, told me he was honored to meet me, and as I was getting over the shock of being the subject of his admiration, he asked me (in Spanish, of course), "Excuse me, may I ask you where did you get those pants? I have been looking for some of those, but I doubt I can find any that look as good on me as they do on you."
That is the essence of Bebo Valdes on stage and off: elegance, charm, humor, wit and a grandfatherly smile.
In an e-mail, Bebo Valdes' record producer Nat Chediak says that Bebo currently isn't traveling far from his second home in Spain. After winning five Grammys since turning 88, maybe he will take it easy, if not retire.
He certainly deserves it.
Viva Bebo Valdes!