Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Suite Caminos – Latin Jazz Network – By Raul da Gama – Feb 7, 2016

Suite Caminos (2015)

Suite Caminos (2015)

Latin Jazz Network

Gonzalo Rubalcaba has sojourned all over the topography of music ever since his performing days in Cuba and the rest of the world, and ever since he was discovered by Charlie Haden. He might be said to have blazed brave new trails between Afro-Cuban music and Afro-American. His extraordinary virtuosity as a pianist and his unbridled genius as a musician has been brought forth on a number of recordings from the earliest days to his magnificent album Fé/Faith (5Passion, 2011). Throughout the course of his career the Afro-Cuban idiom has defined his music in overt as well as more subtle ways when he was playing jazz. But on Suite Caminos he delves much deeper into his origins. As a result the music on this album addresses Santeria in a more direct manner.

At first blush it appears that Rubalcaba is less audible on the album. He seems to play less piano, a tad more keyboards than on other albums including on that seminal recording Mi Gran Pasion (Messidor, 2008). But this is more an album about Rubalcaba the composer and that too one exploring the depth of his African rhythmic side. Moreover returning to his African roots Rubalcaba has crafted a work of greater significance than anything he might have done in his entire career. Suite Caminos translates literally as “The Roads Suite” but a slightly metaphorical view of the music tells of the “routes” that Rubalcaba has travelled all his life including that part that involved not so much music as the worship of African deities. So the performance no longer becomes a mere display of gratuitous virtuosity but rather an exploration of the soul of Rubalcaba’s entire existence as an artist.

Chanting is heard throughout the album. Happily, those voices also include Pedrito Martinez on two sequences; more happily Martinez is not the only vocalist on the album. There are others – Philbert Armenteros, Mario Hidalgo, Sonia Feldman – all of whom chant to various deities as soloists and in a heavenly choir as well. Rubalcaba often resorts to the organ to channel his African harmonics through a European church setting rather than in a more secular fashion, on the piano. This is unusual but seems to work seamlessly with the African rhythms belted out by the conventional drum set, by Ernesto Simpson as well as by the battery of percussionists on the album.

But it is the gripping drama and involvement in large-scale works that recall the brilliant musicianship of Rubalcaba and the legacy of his pianism throughout his career. Rubalcaba’s captivating direction and intensity, complete with an almost hypnotic abandon, is a touch more measured in Rubalcaba’s (organist’s) hands but no less effectively communicated. The music is less florid and more ingeniously compressed into lines that poke and jab at the music in the keyboardist’s inimitable style.

Sendero de Espuma and Ronda de Suerte are arguably the most ambitious creations on the album. Truly symphonic in grandeur, the works are harnessed impressively by the exceptionally experienced Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Granite-like blocks of intensely chiseled harmonic progressions from start to finish are studiously laid down, as if for posterity, and yet there’s an underlying immediacy and restlessness in Rubalcaba’s rhetoric which leads to thrillingly choppy waters in the music. I can’t think of anything finer in terms of what Rubalcaba does on this or any of his previous recordings. There is a grandeur, flair and emotional risk here and happily it is on a record that has also been recognized as one of the best in 2015.

Suite Caminos is a 2016 Grammy Nominated Recording
Best Latin Jazz Album category

Track List: Sendero de Aliento; El Hijo Mensajero; Destino Sin Fin; Sendero de Espuma; Santa Meta; Alameda de Vientos; Via Prodigiosa; Ronda de Suerte.

Personnel: Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Piano on all selections except 1, synths on all selections, palmadas and tambor on selection 7; Matt Brewer: Upright bass on all selections except 1; Adam Rogers: Guitars on all selections except 1 and 6; Ernesto Simpson: Drums on all selections except 1; Gary Galimidi: Electric Guitar on selection 5; Will Vinson – Alto Sax on selections 2, 4 and 5 and Soprano Sax on selections 6, 7 and 8; Alex Sipiagin: Trumpet on selections 2, 4, 5, 6, and 8. Flugelhorn on selection 7; Seamus Blake: Tenor Sax on selection 2, 4, 5 and 6; Pedrito Martinez – Lead Vocals on selections 6 and 8, and chorus on all selections. Percussion on all selections and palmadas on 7; Philbert Armenteros: Lead Vocals on selections 2, 3, 7 and 8, and chorus on all selections. Percussion on all selections except 3; Mario Hidalgo: Lead Vocals on selection 1; Sonyalsi “Sonia” Feldman: Lead Vocals and Chorus on selections 4 and 5; Special Guest: John McLaughlin: Electric Guitar on selection 6.

Label: 5Passion
Release date: March 2015
Website: g-rubalcaba.com 
Running time: 1:17:42
Buy music on: CDBaby


Gonzalo Rubalcaba inaugura la quinta edizione di Piano jazz

Al via martedì, alle 20.45, nella Fazioli Concert hall di Sacile, la quinta edizione della rassegna creata a curata dal circolo culturale Controtempo

di Gabriele Giuga

Gonzalo Rubalcaba inaugura la quinta edizione di Piano jazz


Al via martedì 19 aprile, alle 20.45 nella Fazioli Concert hall di Sacile, la quinta edizione di Piano Jazz, rassegna creata a curata dal circolo culturale Controtempo e, come chiarisce il nome, interamente dedicata al jazz per pianoforte solo. Ospite d’apertura della rassegna è il pianista di origine cubana Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Già ospite del Volo del Jazz con il suo dinamico gruppo Volcan, Rubalcaba torna a Sacile, ma in versione da solista.

Nato nel 1963 a L’Havana, Gonzalo assorbe le radici popolari della sua terra, le coniuga con le giovanili improvvisazioni e con la solida formazione classica, per rivelare presto un folgorante e inconfondibile talento creativo.

A metà degli anni ’80 incontra la Blue Note e il grande Charlie Haden, al fianco del quale inizia una carriera internazionale: oltre quaranta le incisioni (tra le tante: Discovery. Live in Montraux, Suite 4y20, Rapsodia e i Latin Grammy Nocturne e Land of the Sun), decine i premi e migliaia gli osannati concerti in tutto il mondo in solo, vari jazz ensemble e imponenti orchestre.

«La buona tecnica rende liberi» è uno degli assiomi di questo maestro e compositore, che fa della sua arte la complessa restituzione di un talento a tutto tondo: «Qualsiasi ambiente, qualsiasi strumento, acustica o pubblico incontri – spiega – il bello è riuscire a portare la musica dove voglio io». E i suoi concerti rimangono tra le più appassionate e stupefacenti sorprese che ci si possa attendere da un «piano solo».

Il festival prosegue il 2 maggio con Gerald Clayton. Olandese di nascita, americano di formazione, Clayton è una figura leader per le giovani generazioni, tanto da influenzare il nuovo lessico jazz d’oltreoceano e le sue tematiche più alternative.

Mercoledì 11 maggio arriva a Sacile Stefano Battaglia, una delle punte di diamante italiane della tastiera. La sua acuta ricerca musicale si orienta da oltre vent’anni tra musica antica, novecentesca e improvvisazione, ha al suo attivo decine di progetti che intersecano letteratura, poesia, storia e infiniti territori culturali e migliaia di performance e collaborazioni in tutto il mondo, con eterogenee e innovative scelte estetiche.

Chiusura infine con le atmosfere popolari israeliane contaminate dall’eleganza del jazz francese di Yaron Herman, venerdì 20 maggio. Classe 1981, nato e cresciuto a Tel Aviv ma poi passato da Boston e approdato a Parigi, Yaron Herman è già pluripremiato, ha suonato in tutto il mondo.

Georgia Today – International Jazz Day – Easter Gift from the Ministry of Culture – May 5- 2016 – Maka Lomadze


Georgia Today - They say there are very few countries where so many youngsters go to jazz concerts as they do in Georgia. This is the victory of Georgian jazzmen who risked their lives and positions, who did not fear the Soviet years and held jazz concerts from the late 1970s. The tradition is continued by the latest generation. In November 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially designated April 30th as International Jazz Day in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people from all corners of the globe. In Georgia, International Jazz Day was also marked.

The event to celebrate International Jazz Day, a concert featuring ‘Volcan,’ was supported by the US Embassy in Georgia, the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection and Tbilisi City Hall. The world-famous band ‘Volcan’ unites Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Grammy-award winning Afro-Cuban Pianist, Joze Armando Gola on bass, and Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernandez on drums - Cuban musicians following in the footsteps of their countrymen Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D’Rivera, Ignacio Berroa, and others, creating a multicolored and rich musical heritage within the last 5 years, included in around 150 albums.

As a prologue to the main show, at the Event Hall, the Orchestra of the National Plural Guards under the Armed Forces performed such popular jazz hits as: ‘In the Mood’ by Joe Garland, ‘Blue Rondo a La Turke’ by Dave Brubeck, and ‘Cantaloupe Island’ by Herbie Hancock.

“We all want to live in a jazz world where we all work together, improvise together, and are not afraid of taking chances and expressing ourselves,” says Herbie Hancock, jazz guru, co-founder of the International Jazz Day, and Ambassador of Goodwill of UNESCO.

Entrance to the gig was free. “Since 2014, the Ministry has been an organizer and initiator of the Day,” Giorgi Aptsiauri, Head of the Culture Popularization Division under the Ministry of Culture told us. “This year, there was a record in terms of the number of countries which marked the Day – 196 in total. We invited representatives of the central authorities, diplomats, central and regional musicians to the Tbilisi concert,” he said, going on to reveal a fantastic piece of news: “We have received e-mails from UNESCO informing us that Tbilisi is being discussed in the first category of potential venues for the next International Jazz Day. If not in 2017, hopefully, this will happen in 2018.”

”It is already a ritual to celebrate International Jazz Day annually. This is our victory,” said Gaioz Kandelaki, ‘godfather’ of jazz in Georgia. “Where before I was coming to jazz concerts with my friends, now one of them has brought his grand-daughter with him. Even back in 1989, when we had a festival in Tbilisi, we saw great interest from the Georgian youth, however, due to the subsequent wars, it fell out of the schedule. Now, we have two great festivals (Tbilisi and Black Sea) that are included in the lists of many civilized countries.”

GEORGIA TODAY also spoke to Dini Virsaladze, famous female jazz pianist: “Rubalcaba is one of my favorite performers. He was here quite recently and gave a great concert and a master-class. I’m very happy that this time he is with a band who are stars in their own right.”

This was the 5th anniversary since Irina Bokova and Herbie Hancock founded the International Jazz Day. The hub of the event was Washington DC and namely the White House, where President Obama and the First Lady of the United States hosted outstanding global stars: Herbie Hancock, Sting, Aretha Franklin, Diana Krall, Chick Corea, Al Jarreau, Hugh Masekela, and others. From this list, almost all have been to Tbilisi.

The first International Jazz Day was held in 2012 in Paris, New York and New Orleans, annually shifting its central place in different cities of the world, hosting galas ample with legendary jazz musicians, singing about peace, tolerance and freedom. Last year, the Japanese city Osaka hosted the main occasion dedicated to the International Jazz Day. Which city will be the next – Tbilisi?


Musica Jazz – Intervista – Gonzalo Rubalcaba


Musica Jazz – Marzo 2016 – Intervista Gonzalo Rubalcaba PDF
musica jazz

Downbeat – March 2016 – PDF


DownBeat – Gonzalo Rubalcaba  - PDF
downbeat march 2016

Edison Foundation Awards “Tokyo Adagio” World Award

To Charlie Haden my eternal gratitude, and my constant desire that this world and coming generations may discover and share in the love that Charlie impressed on each of his presentations, songs and actions.



Charlie Haden & Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Tokyo Adagio (Universal Music – Blue Note Japan)
Charlie Haden behoorde tot de allergrootste bassisten uit de jazz geschiedenis. Naam maakte hij in de baanbrekende freejazz groep van Ornette Coleman met Don Cherry, Dewey Redman en Ed Blackwell, die nagenoeg alle toen geldende jazzconventies losliet en daarmee het pad plaveide voor de moderne jazz, zoals op hun invloedrijke albums “”The Shape Of Jazz To Come”’ en “Change Of The Century” te horen is.  Ondanks het zeer vrije spel op deze albums, en in andere groepen, zoals zijn eigen politiek geëngageerde Liberation Music Orchestra, was Charlie Haden daarnaast ook een hele lyrische bassist, met een warme sonore sound, en een soms duidelijk hoorbare liefde voor Amerikaanse folk music, zoals in zijn samenwerking met Pat Metheny.  Haden speelde gedurende zijn lange carrière vaak in duo bezetting.  De eerste maal dat hij samenspeelde met de Afro-Cubaanse pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba was op het jazz festival van Havana midden jaren ’80, wat uiteindelijk resulteerde in het fraaie album Nocturne uit 2001. Het album Tokyo Adagio (Universal Music – Blue Note Japan) van het Charlie Haden Gonzalo Rubalcaba Duo is postuum uitgebracht in 2015 en bevat een prachtige selectie van songs van een viertal intieme live optredens in Tokyo uit 2005, met gracieus en doorvoeld samenspel van deze twee grootheden in de jazz, waarbij elke gespeelde noot raak is. Het album bevat ingetogen improvisaties op een viertal jazzstandards en twee eigen composities met grote emotionele zeggingskracht. Doordat de song “En la Orilla del Mundo” op beide albums met Rubalcaba is opgenomen (nl ook op Nocturne) valt de kracht die uitgaat van het basspel van Haden extra op; de traag en soulvolle stuwende, maar ook  melodische kracht van zijn bas draagt de muziek in beide gevallen. Het maakt ogenschijnlijk niet uit of daarnaast nog alleen gespeeld wordt op piano, of door een voltallige band.


Charlie Haden Project

5Passion Releases


Rubalcaba Dazzles at 11th Annual San Francisco Flamenco Fest

gonzRubalcaba Dazzles at 11th Annual San Francisco Flamenco Fest
Posted 3/17/2016

Flamenco has a firm foothold in the Bay Area, thanks to the 11th Annual San Francisco Flamenco Festival, which concluded on March 9 with a concert at the Herbst Theatre. Vocalist Esperanza Fernández and pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba headlined a dual tribute to the Cuban sonero Beny Moré (1919–’63) and the Spanish Gypsy cantaor Manolo Caracol (1909–’73) dubbed “¡Oh Vida!” with Fernández serving as Artistic Director and Rubalcaba the event’s Musical Director.

Both pairings proved to be a perfect fit. Contemporaries, Moré and Caracol were popular entertainers as well as performing artists. Fernández and Rubalcaba, in turn, are each virtuosos comfortable investigating disparate musical styles and traditions.

During her introduction, Bay Area Flamenco Artistic and Executive Director Nina Menéndez explained that Fernández had performed at last year’s San Francisco Music Festival and mentioned she was pondering working on this project with Rubalcaba.

Menéndez first met Rubalcaba in Havana back in the late ’80s when he and her brother, guitarist Pablo Menéndez, played together in the band Sonidos Contemporáneos. In an earlier statement she expressed her enthusiasm about the possible collaboration and was able to present the project a mere five days after its March 4 debut in Miami.

The venue was darker than usual as the musicians, including bass guitarist J.M. Popo and percussionists Jorge “El Cubano” Pérez and José Fernández (no relation to Esperanza) took their places on the bandstand. It evoked an after-hours mood as various colored lights would illuminate the musicians in a minimalist fashion.

Rubalcaba alone was visible stage right as he provided an unaccompanied introduction to the evening’s titular bolero, a signature song of Moré’s. Utilizing soft chords and delicate single note excursions, he established an elegant, sweeping template.

Fernández’s impassioned crooning then cut across the rhythm section’s understated accompaniment. She clapped in syncopated support while Rubalcaba executed a surgically economical solo. Addressing the audience in Spanish, she then let Rubalcaba start the next number—“Popurrí de Zambras” from Caracol’s songbook. His sinuous lines contrasted with her sustained, horn-like singing.

When he soloed precisely and quietly, she accompanied with graceful dance-like arm movements. Though Rubalcaba enjoys a reputation as a mighty technician, he reminded listeners early on of the equally impressive delicately restrained aspect of his pianistic approach.

Pérez and José Fernández’s arsenal included cajons, congas and their own bodies. The two percussionists were energetic standouts on an infectious version of “Yiri-Yiri Bon.”

Even for non-Spanish speakers, Esperanza Fernández’s vocal delivery conveyed the sassy and assured lyrics. She reinforced a feeling of sensuality through her own brief expressive dance that preceded a Rubalcaba solo featuring crisp arpeggios.

Popo had he honor of doing the first non-Rubalcaba solo introduction of the set for Moré’s “Tú Me Sabes Comprender.” Manipulating the volume of his instrument, he made these abstract explorations sound like ocean waves.

In a true cultural crossover moment, Rubalcaba then played with a rapidity and fluidity that made the piano sound as if it was a strummed acoustic guitar. In a musically intimate moment, Fernández walked over to the pianist, turned to him while remaining in profile to the audience and seemingly serenaded her creative partner.

For the first of two medleys, Moré’s “¿Como Fue?” was partnered with Caracol’s “Gitana Blanca.” Popo again played first, plucking successive notes for another wet effect—a soft constant rain in this case. Esperanza Fernández snapped in time and then danced during Rubalcaba’s expansive solo.

In the latter segment, Fernández got her own solo showcase followed by an exquisite passage with just her and the two percussionists. Pérez and José Fernández were featured throughout the rest of the night.

The other medley, Moré’s “Santa Isabel de Las Lajas” and Caracol’s “Malva Loca,” closed the formal repertoire with the percussionists holding a de facto master class on clapping before tandem soloing on “Malva Loca” while employing a variety of their instruments.

The quintet was encouraged back to the stage and called an audible by presenting a true encore in the form of another version of “Yiri-Yiri Bon.” This one was shorter and looser, with a quicker tempo and Esperanza Fernández leading the enthusiastic crowd in a clap-along.

It was one final communal moment concluding a spirited and inspired program.

(Note: To read a 1972 Classic Interview with Dizzy Gillespie, click here.)

—Yoshi Kato

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