Cuban jazz pianist Bebo Valdes dead

March 23, 2013 at 11:30 AM
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STOCKHOLM, Sweden, March 23 (UPI) -- Cuban jazz musician Bebo Valdes, the one-time musical director of the Tropicana club in Havana, died in Sweden. He was 94.

The cause and date of his death was not reported.

Valdes was a key figure during the golden era of Cuban big band music, the BBC reported. The pianist led two big bands, composed and arranged songs, and worked as singer Rita Montaner's pianist for nearly a decade.

As musical director at the Tropicana, he performed with U.S. musicians Nat "King" Cole and Sarah Vaughan.

After the 1959 Cuban revolution, Valdes left the country for Mexico and began touring Europe as part of the Lecuano Cuban Boys orchestra, the BBC reported.

He eventually settled down in the Swedish capital of Stockholm after falling in love with a woman in the audience of one of his performances. He stopped touring in the 1960s, preferring to stay home with his wife in Stockholm, and began playing in hotel piano bars and restaurants.

Valdes' fame was revived in 1994 when he recorded the album, "Bebo Rides Again" and began a collaboration with Cuban saxophonist and clarinettist Paquito D'Rivera. He was then featured in a 2000 documentary, "Calle 54," about Latin jazz, further bringing attention to his music.

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