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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

Bebo Valdés And His Orchestra

By Marty Lipp
Published March 16, 2007

Cuban Dance Party
Everest 8142

For a while there, it looked as if pianist Bebo Valdés would become known principally as the father of Chucho, but his career has undergone a renaissance. In his late 80s, the elder Valdés has released several notable albums and now comes a reissue from the first act of his career. Cuban Dance Party appeared in 1959, the year Castro came to power. A year later, the U.S. trade embargo fell into place and Valdés defected. The songs are consistently compelling, and aimed squarely at the dancefloor, in the spirit of Tito Puente’s classic “Dancemania,” which came out in 1958. The arrangements are bright and vibrant, with the orchestra playfully tossing melodic phrases back and forth as the rhythm section keeps churning onward. Hearing what Havana’s dancers heard back then, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic about the incredible laboratories of music the clubs must have been in their pre-Communist heyday.