Bebo Valdés Trio: El Arte Del Sabor

There is no “one” single iconic recording by the great Bebo Valdés. The pianist was an epitomé of good taste, which is not the reason for picking this album as this week’s essential recordings. Perhaps some might suggest that the recording that heralded his comeback after literally 30 years in the cold, Bebo Rides Again might have been more appropriate. After all Old Man Bebo wrote a reported eight songs and arranged a total of eleven songs in the 36 hours before the date that was put together by Paquito D’Rivera. Perhaps that ought to have been featured. But there is something about El Arte Del Sabor (not just its title) that has just a tad more mystery and magic.

Look who’s on the disc, for instance, accompanying The Great One; Israel “Cachao” López on bass, Carlos “Patato” Valdés on congas and percussion and even Paquito D’Rivera on alto saxophone and clarinet on three tracks. The intimacy of the recording is only rivaled by another iconic date on which Bebo Valdés appeared – a reunion with his eminent son, Jesús “Chucho” Valdés for Fernando Trueba’s film and recording Calle 54, featured below in the video clip.

Bebo Valdés Trio - El Arte del Sabor - Lola Records
Album cover – Bebo Valdés Trio – El Arte del Sabor

Bebo Valdés is at the top of his game here. His uncompromising directness is one of the many strengths of this spotless performance of these wondrous pieces. Of course, Bebo Valdés was never capable of playing a wrong note in his life. In something of a Confucius-like manner he seemed to have been born a wise old man. Those who heard him live will testify to that and all of the records he made seem to have that fresh, invented-just-this-minute feel to them. And so also what emerges here in Bebo Valdés’ playing of all the seventeen pieces is the wonderful singing quality of his legato, combined with a most natural-sounding control of rubato, often marked but never exaggerated.

These are qualities to be cherished in all of Bebo Valdés’ pieces – literally everything he plays here. Look down the track list below and you can pick any tune to discover its uncompromising beauty. That is if you have the record (and if you have not then any price is worth paying for it). The great pianist brings finely controlled tonal contrasts to the pieces – “Ogguere” is a great example because it also features Cachao playing con arco and Paquito D’Rivera on clarinet. The symphony (there is no better way to describe it) is complete with “Patato” and his gliding hands across the skins of the congas. Even the word “masterpiece” seems inadequate. Here we also see (and hear) Bebo Valdés’ subtlest treatment of dynamics imaginable, never rising above pianissimo.

The musical accompaniment is unsurpassed and while this might seem like a critique of superlatives, it is the only appropriate measure here. Listen to the nicely graded and transparent textures throughout the recording. It is the closest thing to diaphanous gossamer that any music can be appropriated to. Everything is on point, including the underlying orchestral colouring. It is simply hard to imagine anything played more lovingly or more stylishly and with the utmost candour – all qualities that are missing in much of music today, which is why I would hold fast onto anything by Old Man Bebo.

Track List – Lamento Cubano, Son de la Loma, El Marañon, Bolero Potpourri, Priquitin Pin Pon, Negro de Sociedad, Buche & Pluma – Na Ma, El Reloj de Pastora, Conga Potpourri, Ogguere, Pare Cochero, Cumbanchero, Si llego a baserte, Guracha Potpourri, Romance en La Habana, Route 66, Adios Panama – Para Vigo Me Voy.

Personnel – Bebo Valdés, piano, Israel “Cachao” López, bass, Carlos “Patato” Valdés, percussion, Paquito D’Rivera, alto sax, clarinet (tracks 5, 10, 15)

Released – 2004
Label – Blue Note Records
Runtime – 1:03:41

Raul Da Gama
Raul Da Gama
Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

More from author


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related posts


Featured Posts

Omar Sosa’s 88 Well-Tuned Drums: A Film by Soren Sorensen

Anyone approaching this film about the iconic Cuban composer and pianist Omar Sosa, by the award-winning filmmaker Soren Sorensen will be almost immediately struck...

Danilo Pérez featuring The Global Messengers: Crisálida

Danilo Pérez began forming his worldview - and aligning his music to it - ever since he came under the sphere of influence of...

The Feeling Messengers, Past and Present (Part II)

Miguelo Valdés & The New Messengers Of Feeling Miguel Valdés, or “Miguelo”, as he has since become known, was born in the province of La...

The Feeling Messengers, Past and Present (Part I)

Preamble Within the current renaissance of popular Cuban music, coupled with the seemingly eternal presence of its first cousin American Jazz, we are once again...

In Conversation with Carlos Cippelletti

Pianist, composer and arranger Carlos Cippelletti, is a promising young Spanish, Franco-Cuban artist from the last generation of Afro-Cuban jazz musicians born outside the...

Celebrating Jane Bunnett: Spirits of Havana’s 30th Anniversary

After dark they gather, the spirits of Havana. Is that a ghostly, but fatback-toned rapping down in the barrio where the great composer and...

Piazzolla Cien Años: Lord of the Tango@100

There is a now famous photograph of the great Ástor Piazzolla that is iconic for so many reasons. Chief among them is the manner...

Omara Portuondo, Multifaceted Gem of Cuban Music

My moon app announces that in 14 hours the Supermoon of May will be here. During a full moon I often get inspired to...

Ray Barretto · Barretto Power

Barretto Power: A Celebratory Reissue on its 50th Anniversary It was 1970 when Fania Records released Barretto Power, one of a series of seminal albums...

El Gran Fellové: Part 3- When my Parents…

When my parents bought their home in 1968, Sunset Beach was just another sleepy little beach town It spanned about one mile in length, sandwiched...

Join our mailing list

Participate in contests, giveaways and more