Bebo Valdés is considered by many to be not just the father of piano great Chucho Valdés, but also father of the finest Cuban music of the '50s, having served as musical director for the famed Tropicana Club in Havana. Descarga Caliente shows a different side of this influential giant. The title meaning "hot Cuban jam session," this record is all about swinging vamps and expressive, edgy solos. Known for his skills as a big-band arranger and composer, Bebo was also on the cutting edge in leading jazz-oriented jam sessions, helping to birth the now hugely popular "Latin jazz" genre. Bebo's influence on generations of great pianists is clearly evident, from his single-line-at-octaves, very sparse solo style to his syncopated montuno-style vamping. With brilliant collaborators like the famed conguero Tata Güines and bass player Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez, the rhythm section is cooking from start to finish. Trumpet voice el Negro Vivar and Luis "Sane" Escalante seem equally comfortable blowing en clave as they do swinging. As great as the sidemen are on Descarga Caliente, the attention cannot be drawn from Maestro Valdés. There are few bandleaders or pianists today who are as tasteful and musical. A great choice for the collector or student of Latin jazz, Descarga Caliente proves as cool and confident as the day it was recorded.
AllMusic Review by Evan C. Gutierrez