Bebo Valdés, a pianist, arranger and composer who was a musical lightning rod in Havana during the evolution of the mambo and, after a long fallow period, a million-selling success during the last two decades of his life, died on Friday in Stockholm, his primary residence since 1963. He was 94.
The cause was pneumonia, said his record producer Nat Chediak.
During the postwar and pre-Castro boom years for tourism and popular dance-band music in Cuba, Mr. Valdés — 6 foot 4 (his nickname was El Caballón, or “The Big Horse”) and possessed of protean energy — was often the right man in the right place. His conservatory learning, his love of jazz and his curiosity about the extensions of African and European roots through Cuban music since the late 19th century, as well as his focus and discipline, put him in great demand