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'Familia' Affair: Paying Homage To Afro-Cuban Jazz Pioneers

It's hard to overstate the importance of both Bebo Valdes and Chico O'Farrill to Afro-Cuban jazz and Cuban music in general.

Valdes, who died in 2013 at age 94, was winning Grammys and Latin Grammys for his music right up near the end of his life. One contemporary Cuban pianist called him "the entire history of Cuban piano."

O'Farrill, who died in 2001, was part of the migration of Cuban musicians in the middle of the 20th century; he not only helped create the genre we now call Latin jazz, but was also an influence on popular music in his adopted home.

The two men's sons, pianists Chucho Valdes and Arturo O'Farrill, recently collaborated on Familia: Tribute to Bebo and Chico, an album both dedicated to their memory and inspired by their towering historical presence. It's a true family affair, bringing in a third generation of Valdes and O'Farrill progeny to perform on the album.

This week on Alt.Latino, the music is full of life and beauty. And the conversation with Arturo O'Farrill is free-flowing and, as always, thought provoking.

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Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.