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Gonzalo Rubalcaba opens the Red Sea Jazz Festival



Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba opens the Red Sea Jazz Festival later this month

AUGUST 15, 2018 19:15

Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba is quite simply one of the most dynamic and explosive performers to have graced the Red Sea Jazz Festival stage over its 32 years-andcounting history. Considering the glittering array of pantheonic artists that have strutted their polished stuff down South over the past three-plus decades, some might consider that more than a little heretical. But anyone who has seen Rubalcaba produce his magic live can testify to the man’s effusive charm and electrifying keyboard work.

The Cuban is one of the star attractions at the forthcoming festival, which for the first time has been pared down to three days (August 26-28) from its perennial four-day format. But what the program may have lost in terms of quantity is more than compensated for by the quality lined up by artistic director Eli Degibri. The stellar imports include such 24-carat acts as saxophonist Joshua Redman, trumpeter Tom Harrell, and preeminent 78-year-old evergreen pianist Herbie Hancock.

Playing solo must be one of the greatest artistic challenges of a jazz musician, but Rubalcaba’s lone show on August 26 – the festival curtain raiser at 7:15 p.m.– should keep his audience duly riveted and enthralled.

If you have sampled any of the 55-year-old’s expansive oeuvre and noted an underlying percussive element to his ivory-tickling, you would have been right on the rhythmic money. As a wee lad, Rubalcaba started out on his road to musical excellence on drums.

“The piano came up when I was eight or nine years old,” he explains. “It wasn’t because I wanted to play the piano. I never put my eyes on the piano.” That last statement needs a little qualifying. Rubalcaba comes from a family seeped in music-making.

“I never had any other wish than to become a musician. In my family, every day what I saw was music,” he recalls. Considering his genes, that is hardly surprising. My father, older brothers and uncles on both sides, were involved mainly in music. And not only music. They were also involved in dance, painting – so, art in general.”

And if the family surroundings weren’t enough to help the youngster on his way, there was even more support from the wider local circle. “The neighborhood of Havana where I grew up was, and is still, well-known for its musicians,” adds the pianist. “So I heard a lot of folkloric music, and saw people dancing art parties. There was just so much music.”

It didn’t take the lad too long to get in on the act himself. “I remember my first experience playing music was when I was four or five years old, playing AfroCuban percussion. So I played drums and all these percussion instruments before I put my hands on a piano.” WHEN RUBALCABA finally got around to exploring the sonic possibilities offered by what was to become his professional instrument of choice, it was more a result of emotion than intent.

“The piano was always there, at home, because my father was a piano player. And my middle brother, who was eight years older than me, was also playing the piano by then.” Even so, Rubalcaba’s infant musical aspirations remained firmly rooted in the percussive avenue of expression. “I had the feeling that the piano was too difficult for me,” he says. “My mind was focused on drums and percussion.”

Eventually, officialdom pointed Rubalcaba in the right direction. “When I went to a new school, I had a music test, but they said I was too young to go to the percussion department. They gave me two choices – violin or piano. I didn’t want either of them,” Rubalcaba chuckles. Maternal intervention settled matters. “She said I should try the piano. She told me that it would be useful if, for example, I wanted to compose later. She said that every musician should know how to play the piano, and that I should try it for a while, and that we would see later how I felt. I agreed, not because of the explanation she gave to me, but because of the love I have for her. She was right. I said ‘Yes, if you’re happy with that, let’s do it.’” Rubalcaba has been doing it, with great success, ever since. Close to 40 albums as leader, and countless high-profile synergies, with such jazz icons as bassists Charlie Haden and Ron Carter, pianist Chick Corea and guitarist Al Di Meola, not to mention nine Grammy Awards, the pianist is a bone fide member of the jazz A-list roster.

But even with his undoubted gifts and wealth of experience in the jazz field, Rubalcaba says it still takes work to produce the goods – especially when there is no one else on stage with you – to share the limelight and the onus of keeping the audience on board. “You have the pressure and responsibility to keep the people interested in what you are doing. But to get that you have to be in real connection with yourself. Before you think about people and the audience and whether people like what you do, you have to be serious about what you do, and honest. That’s the most important.”

With a couple of one-man efforts in his lengthy discography, Rubalcaba is clearly well-equipped to produce an entertaining and compelling solo performance in Eilat later this month.

For tickets and more information go to

Pisa … Grazie!

Live in Armenia – Yerevan Jazz Fest 2017 – Gracias!









Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Igor Butman Live in Russia!… Gracias!

Photos by Павел Корбут (Pavel Korbut)

Bösendorfer Factory – Viena 2017

I want to thank Bösendorfer for all their support, love and dedication. I want to introduce you to the new generation of the Vienna Concert 280. Really amazing! Thank you Mira and Ferdinand for these wonderful days……

Visit the Bösendorfer Website!

Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Pedrito Martinez Live! in San Francisco 2017 – Gracias!

Chucho Valdes and Gonzalo Rubalcaba Asian Tour 2017 – Gracias!

Live in Havana 2017 – Recorded in Surround Sound by Jim Anderson – Gracias!


Umbria Jazz: si vola ai Caraibi! Il duo di star cubane incanta l’Arena … Valentina Scarponi 13 luglio 2017

Exclusive Video…

Umbria Jazz: si vola ai Caraibi! Il duo di star cubane incanta l’Arena
„E’ una danza a quattro mani quella che dà vita alla sesta serata degli appuntamenti all’Arena Santa Giuliana. Ecco i virtuosi del pianoforte Chucho Valdes e Gonzalo Rubalcaba“


Due pianoforti. Che vibrano, si rincorrono. Si annodano per poi sciogliersi e infine, si riprendono. E’ una danza a quattro mani quella che dà vita alla sesta serata degli appuntamenti all’Arena Santa Giuliana, il “tempio” estivo della grande rassegna jazz che anche quest’anno non manca di ospitare le stelle della musica.Potrebbe interessarti:

Spazio ancora ad un altro eccezionale duo:  Chucho Valdes e Gonzalo Rubalcaba, considerati dalla critica musicale due autentici virtuosi del pianoforte. L’uno di fronte all’altro, seduti davanti a due gran coda, danno vita a un jazz condito da rimandi latini che non tardano a coinvolgere la platea.

Basta sentire l’applauso sincero di un pubblico appassionato che conosce l’arte di queste virtuose star cubane. Basti pensare, ancora, che Valdes nella sua carriera, ha già conquistato cinque Grammy e tre Latin Grammy. Ma non è solo il plauso di tali, ambiti riconoscimenti, a rendere speciale la sua musica. Profonda e calda come l’Havana, intrisa di contraddizioni e melanconia, ecco innalzarsi al cielo una lenta e appassionata dedica alla sua terra, all’alma latina, ai Caraibi.

Dall’afro jazz alle tradizioni popolari; dal piano escono mille suoni del mondo, raccontanti secondo il suo stile unico. E’stato lui, celebre fondatore degli Irakere, a ridare forma ai tratti identitari della musica latina. Ma sul palco, insieme a lui, c’è Gonzalo Rubalcaba, nato nell’Avana post-rivoluzione e intriso di folklore caraibico e jazz americano, ma dal solido studio classico. Insieme, quasi fossero una sola anima, incantano il pubblico dell’Arena. E se pensavate che l’Avana fosse così lontana, stasera questi due virtuosi ce l’hanno portata a Perugia.
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“Minione” reached GOLD status and awards were presented to the musicians during 2nd concert in Warsaw on 28th of March 2017.











“Minione” reached GOLD status and awards were handed out to the musicians during 2nd concert in Warsaw on 28th of March 2017.

The award was a great surprise for Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Armando Gola and Ernesto Simpson. At the end of a song Anna fluently went from singing to improvising to the surprise of the musicians. She switched to Polish and told the audience that Gonzalo and the musicians were not aware of the surprise they were about to receive.  The audience applauded while the musicians were astonished as they did not know what was going on. Finally, with the last sounds of Anna’s voice the board members of Universal Music Poland brought out the gold and awarded the gold records on stage. Gonzalo is eternally thankful and feels so blessed to have been part of this production. Gracias to Anna, Armando and Ernesto and to Universal Music Poland as well as to the touring staff that took such wonderful care of us. Also, thanks to Bosendorfer for providing a wonderful piano for the entire tour.


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