Bebo Valdes and Federico Britos are an inspired pairing. Valdes, who has been living in Stockholm since 1963, is one of the prime figures of Cuban jazz. The pianist made his biggest impact in the '40s and '50s, before he left the country in 1960. He kept to himself until 1994, when he emerged from his cocoon to record again. Among his recordings was the solo piano effort Bebo (Calle 54, 2006), which won the Latin Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Album last year.
Britos has familiarized himself with jazz and Cuban music. The violinist went to Cuba in the '60s, imbibed the music, and then went on to live in Miami. In 2002, he released the delectable Candombe & Jazz (Metrix), a melding of the candombe, an African-derived rhythm, and jazz.
For this recording Valdes and Britos bring in a good mix of originals, Latin and jazz standards. The latter feature some well-roasted chestnuts, but to their credit the musicians bring in their own vantage and vision. As on most of the tunes, Valdes sets up the head. On "Someone to Watch Over Me, Britos comes in on a graceful arc that is contemplative, yet full of resonance, tapping into the emotional and melodic depth of the composition. Valdes takes a lighter approach, his improvisation skirting the melody with only fleeting visits. The balance lights up the tune.
The duo gives the warm ballad "Claudia, composed by Chucho Valdes, a deeply felt and nuanced touch. Each player brings in a lingering passion, making this tune one of the best on the disc. Britos composed "Together, and as the title implies, for them to play together. Their interweaving lines are lithe: Britos often swerves into the upper register; Valdes opens the melody, prancing joyously and dropping in Latin phrases. It is the perfect closer, proving why Valdes and Britos make such a fine team.
Personnel: Bebo Valdes: piano; Federico Briots: violin.