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The Spiritual Journey of Gonzalo Rubalcaba Jazziz July 2011 Digital Edition Story by Bob Weinberg

Faith and Passion….
Cuban exile Gonzalo Rubalcaba forges ahead with a new album and label
By Bob Weinberg

Several years ago, Gonzalo Rubalcaba was touring Europe with his Cuban quintet. After a concert at the New Morning jazz club in Paris, the pianist and some of his bandmates repaired to a nearby restaurant for dinner. At some point, Rubalcaba became aware that a diner at another table was watching him. Finally, the man approached Rubalcaba and, in no uncertain terms, told him what he thought of his performance that evening, “You should play more of the music that represents you,” the would-be critic, also Latin American, admonished, “You’re trying to be an intellectual, like Keith Jarrett or McCoy Tyner, and you’re totally wrong,” “He made a huge statement about that,” says Rubalcaba, relating the event in May – just a few days before his 48th birthday – over dinner at YOLO, a trendy bar-restaurant on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, “Then I understood.  The problem is that sometimes we, as Latin people, believe that [people from] other countries see us as minimal. It’s not the whole truth, The truth is splintered between how other countries see us and how we see ourselves,” Certainly, Rubalcaba’s most-recent recording – a gorgeous, heartfelt solo-piano meditation titled Fe (Faith) – won’t quiet critics who believe Latin jazz artists should play only danceable party music. After a long, successful run on Blue Note, and its Japanese affiliates EMI-Toshiba/Somethin’ Else, the pianist has newfound freedom to play what he chooses – he’s now releasing his recordings on his own 5Passion imprint. Pronounced “cinco pasion,” the label puns on the word syncopation, Rubalcaba’s business partner – and Fe’s executive producer – Gary Galimidi, is also on hand this night at YOLO.  A Cuban who grew up in Miami, Galimidi translates into English some of Rubalcaba’s more complex thoughts, which the pianist feels more comfortable relating in Spanish.  After some 15 years living in South Florida, Rubalcaba has a decent command of English, but he wants to be sure he’s completely understood, something that’s never an issue when he speaks through his music. Unshackled from the constraints of corporate bean counters, Rubalcaba has released a 79-minute recording of unaccompanied piano music. He improvises on selections from Coltrane to Caturla and composes his own highly personal musical expressions about faith and spirituality. Rich and complex, the music evokes AfroCuban roots as well as the modern-jazz idiom, even as it bespeaks Rubalcaba’s rigorous classical training. While he’s recorded without backup musicians before – notably, 2006’s Latin Grammy winning Solo on Blue Note -the pianist seems to be making a statement: He won’t remain confined by anyone’s claims on his identity, be they label execs, audience members or those who would use him to further their own political or cultural agendas.

Rubalcaba has wrestled with perceptions throughout his remarkable career. When the Cuban native first performed at Miami’s Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in 1996, members of the exile community vehemently protested, spitting at concertgoers, pelting them with bottles and literally beating them over the head with a Cuban flag.  Expatriate Cuban jazz stars such as Paquito d’Rivera publicly scolded the pianist for not being a more vocal critic of the Cuban government. While Rubalcaba had since moved to the Dominican Republic – before relocating to South Florida – his mother and father still lived on the island under the watchful eyes of the Castro regime. Understandably, he feared for their safety.  A resident of the sprawling suburban community of Coral Springs, where he’s raised three kids a county away from the madness of Miami-Dade’s exile inferno, Rubalcaba says the controversy has long since subsided. He performs infrequently in South Florida, and when he has appeared, protesters have not. “I haven’t seen any manifestations of that since that [first performance],” he says, mentioning trouble-free concerts at the now-defunct Hollywood Jazz Festival, the newly minted Arsht Center in downtown Miami and a CD-release/label-launch party this spring in Homestead.  As one who’s felt the boot of the Castro regime on his neck, Rubalcaba fully understands the anger of the exiles, many of whom lost everything, not the least of which was their homeland.  And yet, while he detests the oppression of the Cuban government, Rubalcaba points out that he truly developed as an artist on the island, “One of my best periods of creativity and energy was living inside Cuba,” he says, “Nothing is black and white, There’s always been this effort to paint everything very dark ‘” but things have nuance.” Understandably, Rubalcaba was shy about approaching the piano as a very young child. His father, the multi-instrumentalist Guilhermos Rubalcaba, was something of a legend, having held the piano chair in Enrique Torrin’s Orchestra, Jam sessions featuring his father’s superstar friends – Frank Emilio, Barbarito Diez, Tata Güines, and a pre-Los Van Van Juan Formell, among numerous others – took place regularly at the house. Then, there was his brother Jesus, eight years Gonzalo’s senior and a dazzling talent, whose daily practice routine included pieces by Liszt, Beethoven and Rachmaninoff. Rubalcaba decided maybe he’d rather play drums, “The piano, for me, was for people with really amazing control of the two sides of their brain,” he says, “When I was a little kid, I asked my brother, ‘How can you read two thoughts at the same time?’  So, for me, drums, Afro-Cuban percussion, was really my pursuit.” As fate would have it, Rubalcaba’s dreams of becoming the next Chano Pozo were dashed when he was told by his instructors at the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory that, at age 8, he was still too young to study percussion. They suggested he choose piano or violin. His mother swayed him toward the former, and after about two years, the 10-year-old Rubalcaba was hopelessly smitten -with the piano and with his teacher. “She was an amazing woman,” he rhapsodizes over the memory of Teresa Valiente.  “A beautiful woman, She had that ability to make people fall in love with the instrument. She had the tools to seduce you.” Many of the advisors at the conservatory at that time hailed from Eastern bloc countries such as Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and East Germany. Rubalcaba estimates about 60 percent came from the Soviet Union, whose technically and intellectually demanding methodology dominated the curriculum. Counterpoint, harmony, theory and solfeggio training were all part of the regimen. Another part of his training, no doubt, would have infuriated the Soviets. Officially, rock-and-roll was deemed “the music of the enemy” and impossible to hear on sanctioned airwaves. But, like many Cuban youths, Rubalcaba and his buddies would secretly tune in to “la voz de las Americas” – American radio. He remembers “American Woman” by The Guess Who as a particularly popular selection. Jazzy, horn-fueled bands such as Blood, Sweat and Tears, Chicago, The Ohio Players and especially Earth, Wind and Fire also caught his ear. All these influences, plus his plundering of Dad’s collection of 78s – including sides by everyone from Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie to Erroll Garner and Art Tatum combined to form a distinctive aesthetic, a sophisticated mix of indigenous Cuban and Latin styles with bebop, modern-jazz and fusion elements. Rubalcaba became exposed to more modern players, such as Keith Jarrett, through a Cuban radio program hosted by the father of percussion great Horacio “EI Negro” Hernandez. This expanded his horizons even further, as did a regular Sunday concert series held at the National Amphitheater in Havana. The series provided a showcase for complex new music by composers from Cuba, South America and Europe. By the early ’80s, while continuing his studies at the Instituto Superior de Arte, Rubalcaba was starting to gain attention as an artist outside the borders of the island nation. He had toured Africa and Europe with Orquesta Aragon, a Cuban musical institution that goes back to the 1930s. While they were greeted warmly – particularly in Congo and Zaire, where the pianist says audiences sang along with tunes from the group’s archival recordings – Rubalcaba would gain greater acclaim for playing his own music. In 1986, Gotz Worner, head ofthe German-based Messidor label, heard Rubalcaba perform with his seven-piece Grupo Proyecto at a festival held in the Museo de Bellas Artes in Havana, the results of which were recorded by the Cuban Egrem label Worner bought the rights to the recording, which he subsequently mixed and released on two LPs (Regreso Feliz, vols. 1 and 2, later released on CD as Live in Havana). The album created a buzz in Germany, and Rubalcaba was invited to tour the country. Another album for Messidor followed, Mi Gran Pasion, which highlighted the popular Cuban danz6n, a musical style with which not many Europeans were acquainted. Worner was undaunted. “He was really open-minded:’ Rubalcaba says of the label chief. “He decided to run that risk to do that recording. When I proposed the album, he said, ‘Let’s go.”’

Rubalcaba’s fortunes truly soared thanks to a couple of Jazz legends that recognized his brilliance right away.

While staying at the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Dizzy Gillespie wandered into the bar and heard Rubalcaba performing with his band. After the set, Gillespie invited the young pianist to join him and his big band the next day during their set at the 1985 Jazz Plaza Festival. He even proposed the pair perform a duet. When Diz asked Rubalcaba what they should play together, the young pianist answered immediately: “Con Alma.” Just the week before, he had discovered the song in a borrowed fake book, a precious commodity in Cuba. Following the performance, Gillespie declared Rubalcaba the best pianist he’d heard in 10 years. “I fell in love with the tune:’ Rubalcaba says of “Can Alma:’ which he’s recorded several times, including on Fe. “The name was in Spanish, and I saw the composer was Dizzy Gillespie. A week later, I met him.” Gillespie made arrangements to bring Rubalcaba to New York and present him at a Latin jazz festival in Central Park, but politics reared its ugly head. Rubalcaba’s request for a visa was rejected by the U.S. government. “Diz was really upset,” Rubalcaba remembers. “He wrote a letter that was published in The New York Times talking about how at this point, in this century, we still have these problems. We’re talking about a guy who’s 20-something years old, who loves American music.” Fortunately, Rubalcaba was able to capitalize on another fateful meeting with a jazz heavyweight. Thunderstruck by Rubalcaba’s talent, Charlie Haden, like Gillespie, immediately proffered an invitation to the pianist after hearing him play at the Jazz Plaza Fest in 1986. In the liners to Live in Havana, the bassist enthuses about Rubalcaba’s “unbelievable touch and command of the lower register…. The way he uses the bass of the piano reminds one of the way Rachmaninoff uses basses in an orchestra.” The very next day, Haden brought Rubalcaba to the famed Egrem studios, also in Havana, to record. The results must have been impressive. A few years later, Haden brought a cassette of the session to Blue Note Records chief Bruce Lundvall, who was inspired enough to travel to Cuba to sign Rubalcaba in 1990. Once again, politics intervened, as U.S. policy wouldn’t allow an American company to do business with a Cuban artist. Their solution? Have Rubalcaba sign with Blue Note’s partner in Japan, EMI, and allow them to introduce his music in the United States. A concert with Haden and drummer Paul Motian was arranged for the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1990, as a way for EMI execs to evaluate Rubalcaba. Needless to say, they liked what they heard. An album of the Montreux concert, Discovery, was released. Rubalcaba had played with this dream rhythm team before, in Canada, which is far friendlier to Cuban artists than is the United States. So, when he was given the chance to select his bandmates for the concert in Montreux, Rubalcaba requested Haden and Motian. “At that moment, I felt a lot of pressure,” admits the pianist, who has since performed with Jack DeJohnette, Ron Carter, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, among many other jazz greats. “You feel like you have to be at the level of expectations. You have to complywith the ideas they have about you, and you feel it when they look at you. But it’s part ofthe respect. You feel that because you are respected by those people, and the history behind those people, and the history they represent. It’s a blessing. It’s a major compliment.”

Eventually, when the political rhetoric had cooled down and Rubalcaba was no longer living  in Cuba, he officially joined the storied ranks of Blue Note.

A string of critically and commercially successful albums ensued, starting auspiciously with 1991’s The Blessing, a trio recording with Haden and DeJohnette. His first U.S. concert took place at Lincoln Center in 1993, which opened the way to more Stateside bookings and international stardom. Along the way, he also participated on a couple of Haden’s high profile projects: 2001’s Grammy-winning Nocturne (Best Latin Jazz Performance) and 2004’s Land of the Sun, both for Verve. Rubalcaba played an essential role on both recordings. He helped Haden assemble the multicultural ensemble for Nocturne – including his good friend, Cuban drummer Ignacio Berroa, Puerto Rican saxophonist David Sanchez and South Florida-based Uruguayan violinist Federico Britos – and introduced the bassist to Mexican and Cuban boleros sung by Pablo Milanes. Rubalcaba reprised his role as arranger on Land ofthe Sun, and scored another Grammy. On albums such as 1999’s Inner Voyage and 2001’s Latin Grammy winning Supernova, Rubalcaba was given sparkling showcases for his extremely personal, genre-defying style. On the former, he included a track titled “Blues Lundvall,” a tribute to the Blue Note mogul who had played such an important role in his career. While he truly appreciates the enormous boost the venerable label provided, the pianist says he started to chafe at what he perceived to be commercial constraints, particularly as they related to expressing his Latin identity. “When I joined EMI, the Japanese loved what I was doing before,” he explains. “So they asked me to keep doing what I was doing. When I jumped from EMI to Blue Note, things changed a little. Bruce and the people around Blue Note believed that I should do an American repertoire and I started to play American music.” This was reflected on 2008’s Avatar; Rubalcaba’s last record for Blue Note. Utilizing a sextet including the Cuban saxophonist Yosvany Terry and New York drummer Marcus Gilmore, Rubalcaba dived into straight-ahead waters, with nods to hard-bop and funky, neo-trad NewYork-style jazz, which alternated with his quieter, more thoughtful ruminations. The album went to No. 11 on the Billboard charts, but Rubalcaba says he felt somewhat compromised. Now recording for his own sPassion imprint, the pianist can present himself the way he feels is right. That includes his own way of exploring his Latin roots, affording them the respect and dignity he believes they deserve. “It’s basically festive, happy music,” he allows. “But there’s another side.” Rubalcaba plans to follow Fe with a trio recording that will include Beninese guitarist Lionel Loueke and Cuban percussionist Pedrito Martinez. Rubalcaba had introduced Loueke to Haden, when the bassist was seeking a distinctive guitar sound for Land of the Sun. He’s been looking for an excuse to work with Loueke ever since. He’s also been badgering Berroa for years to put together a group and material for a recording session under his own name. The drummer finally consented, and will also release an album for 5Passion. Agreeing that there have been some fairly remarkable developments in Cuba as of late – Castro-critical blogger Yoani Sanchez and the demonstrators Las Damas en Blanca would have been unthinkable a decade ago, as would certain economic reforms – Rubalcaba is cautiously optimistic about real change on the island. It’s ongoing, he says, but slow. Progress will always be impeded by the old men who don’t want to relinquish power. But freedom, as a citizen or as an artist, is the only way for people to advance, he says, even if there’s a price to be paid for swimming against the mainstream. “I think it’s very important to do everything possible to keep developing yourself,” Rubalcaba states. “When you do that, sometimes you have to renounce what the majority of the people want from you, in order to go where you think you need to go.” …


Side Bar

The Shortest Concert I Ever Did

Searching for nonstandard material to record, Charlie Haden turned to his good friend Gonzalo Rubalcaba. At Haden’s request, Rubalcaba compiled boleros by Cuban singer Pablo Milanes and sent a recording to the bassist. A few days later, Rubalcaba remembers, Haden called him and said, “We gotta record that.” The results can be heard on Haden’s 2001 Grammy winning album, Nocturne. A selection of Cuban and Mexican boleros are delicately interpreted by the bassist and pianist along with saxophonists Joe Lovano and David Sanchez, guitarist Pat Metheny, violinist Federico Britos and drummer Ignacio Berroa. Naturally, playing this hushed, often-sublime music live would require careful vetting of venues and audiences. So, someone screwed up big-time when the group was booked to perform at Bayfront Park in downtown Miami during an outdoor music festival in the fall of 2001. Haden, Rubalcaba, Sanchez, Britos and Berroa went on as scheduled, but the blare from a salsa band on a competing stage drowned out their quiet, meditative music. Midway through the first song, a disgusted Haden walked off. “It was the shortest concert Iever did; Rubalcaba says, laughing at the memory. “Ignacio started cracking up. It was about three minutes on stage. Three minutes! I know Charlie and I knew that wasn’t the accurate place to do that kind of concert orthat kind of music. The band got paid anyway.” Fortunately, the group had another opportunity to present this sophisticated music to South Florida audiences when they played to a full house at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in 2002. This time, Haden made sure the sound was pristine, “the best I’ve heard at a South Florida jazz concert,” raved Sun-Sentinel arts writer Matt Schudel. By all accounts, the show was a huge hit with the audience, who rewarded the musicians with a thundering ovation. “I was really happy to see that; Rubalcaba says. “It was a moment to show people how flexible [Latin] music is.” – BW





Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Fé…Faith By Bill Donaldson

Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Fé…Faith By Bill Donaldson


By Bill Donaldson

More often than not, jazz musicians move from youthful irreverence to spirituality as they mature. Examples abound, from Dizzy Gillespie to John Patitucci, from Duke Ellington to Wayne Shorter, from Randy Weston to Pete Malinverni, from Mary Lou Williams to Cyrus Chestnut. The fact that jazz can accommodate profound personal growth throughout a lifetime is a testament to its mutability and its spiritual permanence. Now, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, whom many, with reason, associate with musical exuberance and technical exploration, has infused his latest album, Fé…Faith, with meditation, reflection and wonder about beauty and religious belief. Coincidentally, Fé…Faith, which respects worshippers of all faiths, commences a series of planned recordings on Rubalcaba’s own new label, 5Passion.

Fé…Faith is a solo project with no back-up of bass and drums or any other instruments but the piano to speak the melody. That’s not to say that the effects of other instruments are absent, for Rubalcaba recalls batá drums on “Maferefun Iya Lodde Me,” and he orchestrally uses counterpoint with effective results for interwoven richness on “Oro.” Of course, this isn’t Rubablcaba’s first unaccompanied album, for Solo on Blue Note prepared listeners for his explorations on Fé…Faith.

As the listener progresses through Fé…Faith, it becomes apparent that this first composition, “Maferefun Iya Lodde Me,” sets up the feeling for the entire album in more ways than one. For it serves as a centerpiece for fragmented improvisation on other tracks, which feature brief melodic references to it. Plus, “Maferefun Iya Lodde Me” reveals Rubalcaba’s previously not-as-evident affinity for Bill Evans’ use of space and modality. As if such hints weren’t sufficient, Rubalcaba not once, but twice, freely improvises on “Blue in Green,” which Rubalcaba calls “an amazing piece of music.” It is. However, Rubalcaba’s reverent solemnity present in interpreting “Blue in Green” strikingly contrasts with Evans’ almost jubilant swing when he plays the same song with Toots Thielemans on Evans’ Sesjun Radio Shows recording. How ingenious that the first two-note chord of “Blue in Green” is so familiar in any context, evoking its contemplative mood from the start.

As for “Maferefun Iya Lodde Me,” Rubalcaba considers elements of the song in fragments of wonder. “Derivado 1” opens Fé…Faith with but chimes drawn from that longer piece. Rubalcaba’s use of the sustain pedal during “Derivado 1’s” four-note performance reinforces his reputation for careful attention to touch as he strikes the next chord as its predecessor decays.

Rubalcaba too evokes the spirit of Dizzy Gillespie, who first performed with him in 1985 at the Havana Jazz Plaza Festival when Rubalcaba was twenty. “Con Alma,” appropriately translated as “with soul,” appears twice on Fé…Faith as solo meditations upon the experiences associated with the song and the trumpeter. Rubalcaba sets up a rumbling vamp for “Con Alma 1” before it slows into rumination alternating between single-note melody and left-hand single-note interwoven harmony with shifting block chords.

A project of the heart, Fé…Faith includes a connected sequence of musical impressions of Rubalcaba’s three children. Despite the presence of Michael Brecker, Jeff Chambers and Ignacio Berroa on the other tracks, we’ve heard his unaccompanied musical descriptions of his children before on Inner Voyage. How unforgettable is that to have songs created to express a father’s impressions of each child? Now Rubalcaba has updated his interpretations of their personalities matured in the intervening twelve years. There’s “Joan,” depicting Rubalcaba’s son with its primary singable theme offset by staccato bass notes leading into rubato discursive improvisation. Then there’s “Joao,” of darker chords and exposition in the piano’s close middle range, rather than on “Joan’s” higher treble keys. And there’s “Yolanda Anas,” whom Rubalcaba describes as “coquettish, cheerful, mischievous, imposing, loving and rebellious,” and the initial key-changing lullaby, though she’s now fifteen, evolves into thoughtful variations on the theme with rippling effect and reharmonized gentleness.

Even though Blue Note Records no longer releases Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s recordings, he now is in more control of his destiny as he founds his own label and records his initial recording with delicacy and sparseness that belie his prodigious technical prowess. Instead, Rubalcaba looks inward during another inner voyage as he searches for spiritual inspiration and then lets it flow into an album named Fé…Faith.


Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Fé… Faith (CD) 2011. május 11. by Czékus Mihály for eKultura

Itthon talán kevesebb embernek cseng ismerősen a 4 Grammy-díjjal (és számos egyéb elismeréssel) büszkélkedő, kubai származású jazz zongorista,Gonzala Rubalcaba neve, mint amennyit az eddigi munkássága alapján megérdemelne. A negyvenes éveinek végét taposó muzsikus az elmúlt évtizedek során – Charlie Haden-től Joe Lovano-ig, David Sanchez-től Pat Metheny-ig – a műfaj legjelesebb képviselőivel játszhatott együtt. A bőgős Charlie Haden jóvoltából került be Rubalcaba a ’80-as évek közepén a nagyhírű Blue Note Records-hoz, ahol számos remek albumot készített. 

Sok évtizedes tapasztalattal és közel két tucat albummal a tarsolyában a zongorista tavaly úgy döntött, hogy saját lemezcéget alapít, így jött létre a 5 Passion. Az új cég zászlaja alatt gyorsan elkészített egy saját albumot, amelynek a Fé… Faith címet adta. A korongot a lejátszóban pörgetve már szinte néhány másodperc alatt kiderül, hogy igazi latin temperamentum van ebbe a produkcióba sűrítve, vagyis Rubalcaba nem hazudtolja meg kubai származását.

A 15 számos repertoárt szemlélve gyorsan világossá vált számomra, hogy egy igen kísérletező kedvű zongoristával hozott össze a sors, ugyanis a művek jelentős része több változatban is feltűnik a korongon. Például „Derivado” című saját szerzeményéből három „alternatívát” is bemutat nekünk, de nincs ez másként Miles Davis és Bill Evans „Blue In Green”-jével, vagy Dizzy Gillespie „Con Alma”-jával sem, hiszen ezek is több változatban hangzanak el. Számomra a lemez egyik legérdekesebb műve az „Improvisation1”, illetve az „Improvisation2”, amelyben Rubalcaba Coltrane szellemét idézi meg, méghozzá valami elképesztő átéléssel. Azt hiszem erre még a jazzlegenda is elismerően bólintana.

Az előadó szerencsére nem fukarkodik velünk, és közel 80 perces játékidő mellett mutatja meg, mit tud kihozni a zongorájából. Elárulhatom, hogy nagyon sokat…

A lemez többszöri meghallgatása után kijelenthetem, hogy a hivatalosan június elején piacra kerülő kiadványt az idei év egyik legfigyelemreméltóbb latin zenei produkciójának tartom. A latin zene erejére, lüktetésére, mélységére nem nehéz azonnal ráérezni Rubalcaba új albumának hallgatása közben, de megérteni már nem lehet ennyire rövid idő alatt.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba – zongora
A lemezen elhangzó számok listája:
1. Derivado 1
2. Maferefun lya Lodde Me
3. Improvisation 2
4. Derivado 2
5. Con Alma 1
6. Preludio Corto #2
7. Blue In Green 1
8. Oro
9. Joan
10. Joao
11. Yolanda Anas
12. Blue And Green 2
13. Con Alma 3
14. Improvisation 1
15. Derivado 3
Concierto Negro (1987)
Mi Gran Pasion (1987)
Live in Havana (1989)
Giraldilla (1990)
Discovery: Live at Montreux (1990)
The Blessing (1991)
Images: Live at Mt. Fuji (1991)
Suite 4 y 20 (1992)
Rapsodia (1992)
Imagine (1993)
Diz (1993)
Concatenacion (1995)
Flying Colors (1997)
Antiguo (1998)
Inner Voyage (1999)
Supernova (2001)
Inicio (2001)
Nocturne (2001)
Paseo (2004)
Land Of The Sun (2004)
Solo (2006)
Avatar (2008)

Fé… Faith (2011)Czékus Mihály


CD Review: Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Faith (Fé) By Wilbert Sostre for JazzTimes




Gonzalo Rubalcaba is a well recognized and respected name in the jazz scene. His classically trained background, along with his knowledge of Jazz and the music of his native Cuba, make him an equally impressive musician either playing art or popular music.

Faith is the premiere release on his newly founded 5Passion (cincopasión or sincopation) label. This is a solo piano album, a setting similar to a classical piano recital. Just Rubalcaba and his piano, and of course there is no need for anything else.

Faith starts with “Derivado 1”, a short piece with some dissonances that serves as an introduction to “Maferefun Lya Lodde Me”, a praise in the lucumi language to the orisha Oshun (Lucumi is a Yoruba dialect spoken by practitioners of the Santería religion in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic).

All throughout, Rubalcaba demonstrates his clean and impeccable technique product of his classical piano studies in Cuba. On “Improvisation 1 and 2”, based on the chord changes of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, Rubalcaba displays his virtuosity with fast piano runs and scalar improvisations reminiscent of Coltrane himself. The short phrases and use of dissonances also have some similarities to pianist Cecil Taylor.

“Derivado 2 and 3” are variations based on the second track “Maferefun Lya Lodde Me”. The sophisticated dissonant chords and the effectve playing in the high notes of the piano evokes the sounds of another jazz master, pianist Thelonious Monk.

“Con Alma 1 and 3” are delicate and elegant interpretations of Dizzy Gillespie’s composition, played with soul as the tittle suggest. Rubalcaba creates a perfect balance of emotion and virtuosity in the classically tinged piece “Preludio Corto # 2 (Tu Amor era Falso” and in the Miles Davis/Bill Evans classic “Blue in Green”.

Rubalcaba attack is more aggresive and percussive in “Oro”, an original composition that brings together classical and cuban music with touches of free jazz. Faith also includes three poetic and refined originals dedicated to Rubalcaba two daughters and son, “Joan”, ” Yolanda Anas” and “Joao”. These compositions were recorded originally on his album Inner Voyage.

Tracks: Derivado 1, Maferefun Lya Lodde Me, Improvisation 2, Derivado 2, Con Alma 1, Preludio Corto #2, Blue in Green 1, Oro, Joan, Joao, Yolanda Anas, Blue in Green 2, Con Alma 3, Improvisation 1, Derivado 3

Musicians: Gonzalo Rubalcaba – piano


Gonzalo Rubalcaba – “Fe – Faith” di Daniela Floris, 4 maggio 2011 in I nostri CD e Recensioni.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba – “Fe – Faith” « A proposito di Jazz, di e con Gerlando Gatto – Jazz italiano, jazz svedese, concerti

C’è tutto Rubalcaba, la sua cultura, la sua sensibilità, la sua storia rielaborate, rese essenziali, in “Fe – Faith”. Come  Gerlando Gatto  aveva sottolineato in occasione dello splendido concerto in piano solo all’ Auditorium Parco della Musica, in cui Gonzalo aveva suonato proprio brani quasi tutti provenienti da questa sua ultima fatica, questo è un cd che non si ha esitazione a definire poetico. Momenti lirici, ricordi intensi di studi intrapresi e di musica ascoltata e profondamente amata, un altalenare tra episodi musicali terreni e voli mistici, quello che colpisce è che questo grande artista è da solo con se stesso e decide di affrontare la lettura di sé con tutti i propri mezzi espressivi, che sono infiniti e potenzialmente componibili tra loro in molteplici varietà di colori, suggestioni, frasi e atmosfere.


C’e’ il proprio passato che è stato così intimamente metabolizzato da potergli scorrere tra le dita come un gioco, rimanendo allo stesso tempo però vivo ed importante: è improvvisazione libera ma su stilemi fortemente personali, cosicché anche coltissimi trilli, mordenti e cadenze classiche (che hanno fatto parte degli studi di Rubalcaba) diventano materiale tutt’ altro che vetrificato (ad esempio in “Joao”), perché non c’è nulla di freddamente intellettuale o semplicemente “citato” come semplice tappa di un percorso cronologico.

Spesso la mano destra è cristallina, lirica, quasi sognante e si contrappone ad una mano sinistra ostinata o atonale, molto essenziale. In questi casi l’ improvvisazione appare emotivamente alla ricerca dell’ atmosfera, del suono, di una vera e propria ispirazione che a tratti appare quasi voler essere mistica, ultraterrena (Maferefun lya Lodde me).

C’è anche il jazz a cui Rubalcaba è saldamente legato: “Con Alma” di Gillespie, in due versioni, è destrutturata, ma solo apparentemente, perché in realtà ne viene tenuta con grande maestria l’ essenza vera. Vengono in mente le sapienti pennellate di un’ opera espressionista, che sono quelle essenziali che l’ artista sa scegliere per colpire l’ animo di chi di quell’ opera fruirà.

C’è lo swing, accennato ma evidente (“Improvisacion 2”), ci sono momenti “accordali” molto intensi, articolati sulla parte centrale della tastiera, che danno luogo a suoni scuri in un crescendo drammatico di volumi e vibrazioni e sonorità stavolta tutt’ altro che accennate molto “terrestri” (“Preludio Corto”), e c’è anche una componente che sembrerebbe quasi nostalgica: “Blue in Green” (che ha come riferimento la celeberrima versione di Miles Davis e Bill Evans), è accennata poeticamente quasi come fosse un ricordo che emerge in Rubalcaba, aprendone un varco emotivo, ed al quale l’ artista concede uno spazio commosso, carezzandone amorevolmente piccole parti melodiche ed armonica. E non manca neanche Cuba (“Oro”), criptica ed essenziale, ma riconoscibile.

Molto altro ci sarebbe da dire, ma forse si toglierebbe la possibilità a chi decide di ascoltare questo cd di trovarne il senso, che forse non è uno solo, talmente impalpabile ne è la materia musicale.


Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Concierto de la Fé

Enviado por ei en marzo 6, 2011 – 9:11 am
Emilio Ichikawa

A Carpentier le dejaba sin cuidado el snobismo literario; convencido de que entre una decena de simuladores de oficio acababa por madurar algo con calidad. Esa confianza justifica al menos dos snobismos de nuestros días: el de la Naturaleza y el de la Fe.
Que las personas socialicen contra el tedio valiéndose de la reforestación o la protección de animales es indiferente al útil resultado de sus gestos: el amor fingido, es amor; así como es serenador que matrimonios desgastados por el tiempo sorteen el aburrimiento en bautizos y comuniones; sobre todo durante esos eternos fines de semana. La ligereza de la Fe no impide la realidad de la liturgia. Dios, es a donde quería llegar, siempre merece un ejercicio; y si es uno artístico, pues mejor.El pasado viernes 4 de marzo el músico cubano Gonzalo “Gonzalito” Rubalcaba nos ofreció (a los snobistas de la Fe y la Naturaleza) un hermoso concierto en el EBS Auditorium (Miami Dade), para celebrar el lanzamiento de su disco “Fe”. Escoltado por medio centenar de orquídeas blancas a ambos lados de su piano Yamaha, y un público tan numeroso como heterogéneo, regaló una noche musicalmente serena con momentos de alegría y un segmento final donde predominó lo profundo. Lo trascendente.

La noche del viernes, un teatro dominado por afroamericanos y latinos mostró una predisposición natural por la parte rítmica del programa; que ciertamente fue muy breve. En los pocos minutos que Gonzalito “danzoneó” en el piano, algunos cuerpos alcanzaron a moverse y hasta gritos aprobatorios se escucharon al final. Es algo como muscular, un código, una Fe de tambor que hace poco también comprobamos con la Filarmónica de Bogotá.

-FOTOS: Gonzalito Rubalcaba. Viernes 4 de marzo, 2011. Miami Dade: ei-archivodelbarrio

Nocturna consagración

Charlie Haden y Gonzalo Rubalcaba fusionan jazz y bolero en ‘Nocturne’, un disco para coleccionar.

por ARSENIO RODRíGUEZ, Barcelona
En 2002 Gonzalo Rubalcaba, a quien por años se le resistió el premio Grammy, se ha visto recompensado con un par de ellos.

En septiembre la entrega de los Grammys Latinos dio la alegría a los seguidores del jazz cubano cuando Bebo Valdés (El Arte del sabor), Chucho Valdés (Canciones inéditas) y el propio Rubalcaba (Supernova) fueron premiados en las diferentes categorías a que estaban nominados. El hecho jerarquiza a la escuela criolla como una de las mejores del mundo. Ello adquiere más relevancia si se añade a la fiesta el disco Nocturne (Verve, 2001), que se alzó en los Grammys americanos como mejor disco de latin jazz, y donde puede encontrarse nuevamente a Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Junto con Charlie Haden definió el repertorio del CD, puso canciones suyas, realizó la producción conjunta y, como era de esperar, tocó en todas las piezas como sólo él sabe hacerlo desde que dejó la percusión para dedicarse al piano. Es bastante injusto que en la portadilla sólo aparezca Haden (seguramente una estrategia de mercado para encausar la placa en el ámbito inglés).

Es la primera vez que Gonzalo y Haden hacen un monotemático de boleros, y el disco demuestra que el jazz está muy cerca del género romántico por excelencia. Particularmente para ambos músicos, Nocturne es el capítulo último de una amistad de más de quince años, que comenzó cuando se conocieron en el Festival de Jazz de La Habana. Rubalcaba sólo tenía 23 años.

En el disco hay tres versiones de piezas creadas, inicialmente, por autores que las generaron bajo la influencia del filin; una de ellas, El borde del mundo, nada menos que de Martín Rojas. Aquí Gonzalo diserta con una introducción influenciada por los maestros de la pianística europea clásica, aunque luego se moverá en el tango con fuerte presencia del bolero. La segunda pieza del CD, No empeñes más, de Marta Valdés, es un típico bolero-filin, como apunta sabiamente Leonardo Acosta. En él puede apreciarse que Gonzalo, como en su anterior Supernova, ha ganado suficiente con el silencio y las suaves modulaciones en sus solos con la mano derecha, lo que antes se empeñaba en demostrar con buenas furias y notable virtuosismo. La tercera pieza filin —que cierra el CD—, Contigo en la distancia, viene en un kit-dual con otro tema (En nosotros, de Tania Castellanos). En la versión que ambos músicos hacen de aquella destaca, de manera casi sobrenatural, la manera en que Charlie Haden dice nota a nota, con el bajo acústico, cada silaba del comienzo de la canción; los solos que ejecuta lo introducen inapelablemente en el Olimpo de los mejores bajistas de su generación, a la altura de Charles Mingus o Ron Carter.

Los boleristas cubanos clásicos no están olvidados en este acercamiento, y ahí está la figura de Osvaldo Farrés —con una de sus excelentes piezas, Tres palabras— para demostrarlo. Farrés, con Acércate más, Toda una vida, Quizás quizás, Para que sufras o Madrecita, en su momento aseguró la inmortalidad de Nat King Cole y Antonio Machín, entre otros. La economía de recursos literarios conseguida en Tres palabras es la que imita Gonzalo en la extensión de su particular versión, quizá rindiéndole merecido homenaje al autor.

No sólo se nutre el disco con boleros y filin nacionales: el bolero mejicano está representado con Yo sin ti, de Arturo Castro, Nocturnal, de Sabre Marroquin/José Mujica, Noche de ronda, de María Teresa Lara y, cómo no, El Ciego, de Armando Manzanero.

Con tales argumentos la placa, corte tras corte, se va metiendo en los bares, en la noche, en el amor, en cada cuerpo… ofreciendo gratas sorpresas: el violín del uruguayo Federico Britos, que por momentos parece sacado de un disco de Django Reinhardt, o el saxo de Joe Lovano, con un apreciable solo en Moonlight, sin olvidar al guitarrista Pat Metheny en Noche de ronda. Por último, hay que prestar especial atención al maravilloso acompañamiento que hace Ignacio Berroa, quien a veces usa las escobillas de la batería como maracas. Como recomendó el propio Charlie Haden en Barcelona, compren el disco, grábenlo de algún amigo o bájenlo en MP3, que bien merece el gusto.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba invited by Lorraine, Gillespie’s widow, to attend the funeral as one of the pallbearers

Rubalcaba, Gonzalo

Rubalcaba, Gonzalo , Cuban jazz pianist; b. Havana, Cuba, May 27, 1963. His father, Guillermo, was an acclaimed Cuban pianist who played with the orch. of innovator Enrique Jorrin; his grandfather, Jacobo, penned some of the most beloved danzones of Cuban ballroom society. Despite the U.S. embargo, friends used to smuggle records in and he heard American radio. While he studied classical music at the Amadeo Roldan Cons. in Havana, at home he listened to Art Tatum, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie. By the time he was a teenager, he and friends had formed a jazz-oriented band. He eventually performed in Europe and South America. In 1985, Dizzy Gillespie heard Rubalcaba in Havana and pronounced him the greatest jazz pianist he had encountered in more than a decade. Gillespie tried to bring him to N.Y., but the State Department denied his visa. Wynton Marsalis, Charlie Haden and others lobbied in his favor, but several years passed. He played the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1992. When Gillespie died in January 1993, he was invited by Lorraine, Gillespie’s widow, to attend the funeral as one of the pallbearers, and was allowed a visa to attend the funeral. Later that year, he played a concert at Lincoln Center to great critical acclaim. His move to the Dominican Republic in the mid-1990s made it possible for him to get paid for working in the U.S. (since he was a non-resident of Cuba). The fact that he has clung to his Cuban citizenship and refused to seek asylum in the U.S. has drawn vitriol from some reporters, audiences, anti-Castro lobbyists, and many Cuban émigrés. He moved his family to Fla. with the permission of the Cuban government. He made his Chicago-area debut 1997 at Ravinia.


Article from: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Article date: October 22, 1999
Author: Raether, Keith

Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba has every reason to think of himself as a stranger in a strange land in Florida, where he and his family now make their home.

When he settled in Fort Lauderdale in 1996, Rubalcaba incurred the wrath of Cuban exiles for his failure to denounce Fidel Castro. When he first performed in Miami, hundreds of Cuban American demonstrators greeted him with anti-Castro mud-slinging.

To add aggravation to insult, the more Rubalcaba saw of mainstream America, the more he saw a society without fear or self-control. He feared for his wife and children. He longed for limits on “life in the candy store.”

“I struggle most with the human issues and family values in America,” Rubalcaba said through his manager and interpreter, Juan Quesada. “Life has always moved me wherever I’ve needed to go, and I feel comfortable (in the States) now. I still have in my heart where I come from, but I don’t feel like a stranger here at all.”

Dizzy Gillespie discovered the 36-year-old piano phenom on a trip to Havana in 1985, and their bond was immediate and indivisible. Rubalcaba was a pallbearer at Gillespie’s funeral, and the late trumpeter remains “the best gift that life has presented to me.”

Rubalcaba is content to let his music mend fences. His trio, which includes bassist Jeff Chambers and drummer Ignacio Berroa, will be in concert Sunday as part of the 11th annual Earshot Jazz Festival. Tickets and information: 206-547-9787.


Article from:The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA) Article date:October 25, 2001

ONE OF jazz great Dizzy Gillespie’s passions was Latin music. The legendary trumpeter particularly loved Afro-Cuban rhythms, which he incorporated into his bop sound during the late ’40s. Because of his fascination with the infectious style of music, Gillespie visited Cuba many times over the years.
During a 1985 stop, Gillespie, who loved to discover new talent, saw an intriguing young artist performing in Havana – jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Rubalcaba, who was 22 at the time, was already an accomplished musician. Rubalcaba had honed his skills by studying classical piano from 1971 to 1983. By that point, he was touring Europe frequently.
Gillespie was impressed by Rubalcaba’s considerable chops. He asked the pianist if he would play with him the following evening.
“He gave me some music which had a lot of notes,” Rubalcaba said. “It was difficult music. He said, “Can you learn that and play for me the following evening?’ I told him I didn’t think so. He joked that “We’ll stay up all night practicing. ”
Rubalcaba performed with Gillespie the next night, and the pair hit it off. Gillespie invited Rubalcaba to perform in America on several occasions, but the trip was blocked each time. The first time Rubalcaba stepped on U.S. soil was in 1992, when a visa was granted so that he could attend Gillespie’s funeral.
After recording six well-received studio albums, Rubalcaba crafted 1993’s “Diz,” a tribute to Gillespie. The album also gave tips of the cap to bop giants Charlie Parker and Charles Mingus. Rubalcaba revamped a number of jazz standards by reharmonizing chord structures and adding his own dense style to the mix.
Rubalcaba earned notice in the States. By 1996, he had established residency in Florida.
“It was a process, but lawyers and Blue Note (his label) helped me get here,” Rubalcaba said during a telephone interview from his Coral Springs home. “I’m very pleased to be here. Growing up in Cuba, all you hear is negativity when it comes to America. But I love it here.”
Rubalcaba, 38, has settled in nicely in his new country and released a number of strong albums, such as 1999’s lauded “Inner Voyage.”
The prolific performer is touring behind his latest album, “Supernova.” The title of the disc belies its content. “Supernova” is a spare, introspective effort. In the past Rubalcaba, who will play Friday and Saturday at the American Theatre in Hampton, has incorporated many notes into his music.
That initial encounter with Gillespie apparently had a huge impact. “Supernova” is full of irresistible rhythms, loads of heart, and a subtlety that has been missing from much of the pianist’s music.
“This is a different record for me,” Rubalcaba said. “It’s my most ambitious record. I wanted to make an album that is balanced and to push myself, and I accomplished that.”

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