"In November 2005 the venerable Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés headlined a week at the Village Vanguard with an attentive bassist, Javier Colina. Somehow it was the first New York club engagement for Mr. Valdés, who played a crucial role in developing mambo but later slipped into relative obscurity. Live At The Village Vanguard, captures the buoyant spirit of the occasion as well as the considerable nuance of the music. Playing with nimble grace and palpable delight, Mr. Valdés finesses some beloved Cuban boleros, a few sprightly originals and, in a nod to the setting, the Bill Evans classic 'Waltz for Debby'." - Nate Chinen
According to the Dictionary of Latin Jazz written by Nat Chediak and edited by Fernando Trueba, Bebo Valdés was born on October 9, 1918 in Quivicán (Cuba) and is "the key figure in the golden age of Cuban music". It is a golden age that has been preserved in time because, on September 30, on the verge of his 90th birthday, the genial pianist releases the album Live at the Village Vanguard, recorded live in November 2005 at the New York cathedral of jazz, and accompanied by the double bassist Javier Colina. Produced by Nat Chediak and Fernando Trueba, the album is a compendium of the mastery of Bebo Valdés, of his ability to distill the most essential elements of Cuban music and jazz, with the sole accompaniment of another great, Javier Colina, who according to the pianist is "one of the best bass players I have played with in my entire life, and certainly the most accomplished".
On November 10, 2005, the prestigious critic Ben Ratliff wrote a review of the performance at the Village Vanguard for The New York Times: "Bebo, accompanied solely by the bassist Javier Colina, played with an easy grace, as if he were playing for a group of friends. His playing contained an older man's sense of sleek propriety he left no chord unresolved, and never hit hard for the sake of hitting hard". The comments about Javier Colina were no less full of praise. Ratliff wrote, "Javier Colina was the perfect compliment to the music of Bebo Valdés," while critic Larry Blumenfeld said "Colina showed he is a sensitive accompanist who benefits from the subtle ingenuity of the pianist," in the Village Voice. The fervour and rapture of the crowd's reaction make themselves known on the album - extending to singing on some songs - and are worth mentioning because the Village Vanguard is not just any stage. Since its opening in 1935, the mythical venue on Seventh Avenue in New York has attracted all the jazz greats. Amongst many other legends, the following have recorded incredible live albums here: John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz and Bill Evans, who Bebo Valdés remembers on this album.
Live At The Village Vanguard contains 14 songs. From compositions written by Bebo Valdés (Con poco coco, Ritmando el cha-cha-cha, Bebo's Blues) to classics by Ernesto Lecuona (Andalucía, Siboney), via ageless boleros or bolero-tinged songs (Sabor a mí, Aquellos ojos verdes, Tres palabras, Rosa mustia, Si te contara), a composition of Jerome Kern (Yesterdays) and a few popular classics (Bilongo, El manisero), without forgetting such monuments as "Waltz for Debby," originally recorded in 1961 by its composer Bill Evans on the same stage at the Village Vanguard.
It is an album which joins some illustrious company in the form of Bebo Valdés's discography of the last few years albums that have won the pianist a