Cuban jazz legend Bebo Valdes still going strong after nine decades

Posted: Thursday, November 13, 2008

At 90, Bebo Valdes is still unstoppable.

The legendary jazz musician, who just landed one more Latin Grammy nomination, is celebrating his nine decades with a music tour along with his son and fellow jazz star, Chucho Valdes, in Spain.

Dionisio Ramon Valdes Amaro, his complete name, was born Oct. 9, 1918, in the Cuban town of Quivican. After studying music in the Municipal Conservatory of Havana, he worked in 1943 as musical arranger for the Communist Party's radio station.

In 1948, he started a successful decade as pianist and arranger of the iconic Tropicana club, which gave him the chance to travel all around the world.

In 1960, after Fidel Castro took power, he decided to leave everything behind and left the island for Mexico.

Eventually he settled in Sweden, where he lived for more than 40 years until last year, when he moved to Malaga, Spain.

The musician spoke about his musical career and life lessons in an e-mail interview, because he was too tired to do it otherwise, according to the publicist for the multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy winner.

Valdes: If I tell you it will no longer be a secret ... (laughs). But, between you and me, I don't drink, and I don't smoke.

AP: How's your composition process? How does music come to your head?

Valdes: I don't look for it; it comes by itself. But I live surrounded by notepads to write down ideas as soon as they appear.

AP: What is the best advice you have ever received?

Valdes: The one I got from my mother, Caridad Amaro - that I should study to improve myself.

AP: The biggest satisfaction and biggest struggle of having reached age 90?

Valdes: The biggest difficulty has been to undergo illnesses typical of my age. The biggest satisfaction has been to heal (from those illnesses) so I can keep playing the piano and that people like it.

AP: How would you like to be remembered?

Valdes: With the heart I've put when making music.

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