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Bebo Valdes - 'Chico & Rita' (Soundtrack) CD Review

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Photo Courtesy Red General Catalog

'Chico & Rita' (Soundtrack)

Photo Courtesy Red General Catalog

Chico & Rita is the name of the album featuring the soundtrack from the animated movie with the same title. Although this CD is the result of the work of various artists, Chico & Rita was mainly composed and arranged by the legendary Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes. The album includes 30 tracks featuring Afro-Cuban music, Latin Jazz, and Bolero.

The Animated Movie

To better understand this album, let's get a little bit of background about the movie. This animated film is a love story inspired by the life of Cuban artist Bebo Valdes. Chico & Rita is the result of the work between Oscar winning director Fernando Trueba and the famous Spanish illustrator Javier Mariscal.

The characters of this story, which takes place between the 1940s and 1960s, move between the hectic and lively urban environment of New York, Paris, Havana, Las Vegas and Hollywood. In order to create the drawings, Trueba and Mariscal spent several weeks in Havana going through various photo archives of the late 1940s.

Besides Bebo Valdes, several artists took part on this project. While actress Limana Meneses provides the voice for Rita in the film, Cuban singer Idania Valdes sings Rita's songs. Other artists include Spanish Flamenco singer Estrella Moreno who sings the track "Lyli", Freddy Cole (Nat King Cole), Amadito Valdes (Tito Puente) and Yaroldi Abrew (Chano Pozo).

Chico & Rita was nominated for a 2012 Academy Award in the category of Best Animated Feature Film, and has collected several awards including the Spanish Premio Goya in 2011 for Best Animated Movie and an EFA from the European Film Academy, among many others. The film made its debut in the US on February 10, 2012.

Big Band and Latin Jazz

Considering Chico & Rita deals with the life of Bebo Valdes, the soundtrack is an essential part of this movie. The 30 tracks included on this album provide a real feeling for the sounds that shaped one of the most important chapters in Latin music. The 1940s defined a time in Latin music when genres such as Mambo and Bolero met American Jazz and the whole big band phenomenon.

This soundtrack captures in a perfect way the development of one of the most important cross-over experiences in Latin music, which was especially defined by the traveling of Cuban musicians between Havana and New York, and ultimately ended up shaping the roots of Afro-Cuban Latin Jazz.

In general terms, Chico & Rita is mostly marked by what I would call a Latin big band sound. However, the soundtrack offers various pieces clearly defined by specific Cuban and Latin music genres such as Bolero ("Besame Mucho" and "Sabor A Mi"), Mambo ("Cachao Creador del Mambo"), and traditional Cuban music ("Paran Pan Pan").

Latin Jazz is, of course, an essential part of Chico & Rita. The music includes outstanding performances by Bebo Valdes in the piano, and amazing musical arrangements throughout the whole album. Something interesting about Chico & Rita are the different versions that were made for different tracks such as "A Mayra" and "Love For Sale".

The soundtrack was originally released in Europe in 2011, and became the first ever Latin Jazz and Bolero album to place in the Top 3 of the Best Selling Albums chart in Spain. Last year Chico & Rita won the 2011 Latin Grammy for Best Recording Package.

'Chico & Rita' - Bottom Line

This soundtrack is a fantastic album from beginning to end. If you are into Latin Jazz or Afro-Cuban sounds, you are going to love Chico & Rita. Even if you are not into this genres, Chico & Rita offers a nice introduction for those who are just venturing into the sounds of Latin music. I have not seen the movie yet but if this animated film is as good as its soundtrack, you can easily understand why it has been gathering so many good reviews and awards all over the world. Chico & Rita easily deserves five stars!

'Chico & Rita' - Best Tracks

  • "Blues For Andre (Bebo's Blues)"
  • "Persecucion"
  • "Celia"
  • "Sabor A Mi"
  • "A Mayra (Descarga)"
  • "Chico's Dream"
  • "Ecuacion"
  • "Tin Tin Deo"
  • "Love For Sale"
  • "Lily"
  • "La Bella Cubana"
Record Label: Red General Catalog
Release Date: January 3, 2012
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