Archive for the ‘Critical Acclaim’ Category

What the critics are saying about Gonzalo Rubalcaba…

What the critics are saying about Gonzalo Rubalcaba

” … the greatest pianist I’ve heard in the last 10 years.”

-Dizzy Guillespie’s remarks ( 1985).

“I fell on the floor and asked, ‘Who is that guy, his solo was so unbelievable…He was 23 at the time, I, but it was like hearing a combination of Art Tatum, Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans.”

Charlie Haden

” … this is the best new voice to come along in jazz in almost a decade”.

-Jack Fuller, Chicago Tribune

” … Rubalcaba is a world-class jazz pianist with an impressive intensity and

command of his instrument.”

-Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times

” ….. This young man approaches jazz improvisation with an intriguing blend of

appealing abandon and profound beauty.”

-Chris Albertson, Stereo Review

… Rubalcaba displays both a keen sense of history and a renegade’s sense of

exploration. Where yesterday collides with tomorrow, that’s where you’ll find

Rubalcaba. At least for now- who knows where he’ll be off to next.”

-Jon Regen, Keyboard Magazine.

” … But it is nevertheless necessary to report that Rubalcaba stands in the company

of the great pianists active today in any genre of music-making.

-Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

” … This was certainly one of the top programs ofthe season, whether classical or

jazz, and possibly THE program; an exceptional performer, an exceptional creative

artist at the very top of this game. An unforgettable moment, one that if captured on

CD, you would play over and over, to absorb every nuance.

– Tom Moore, Classical Voice of North Carolina.

” … The Cuban-born pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, who over the last 15 years or so has

become one of the greatest musicians in jazz, is meticulous about music. You can tell

this by the first unaccompanied notes of “Avatar”, his complexly beautiful new

album. He has an almost eerie control over his sound, as if he were playing the

string directly instead of using the keys as intermediaries. He is also meticulous

about ideas …. “

– Ben Ratliff, The New York Time

” ….. This isn’t Latin Jazz per se, or even Mr. Rubalcaba’s original version of it; it’s

more recognizably modern mainstream New York jazz.”

-Ben Ratliff, The New York Time.

” …. “Solo” is a remarkable achievement, at once meditative and muscular, and a

strong early contender for the 2006 TOP 10 list.”

-Josef Woodard, Jazziz Magazine.

” …. “Solo”, as his ninth recording for Blue Note, Rubalcaba solidifies his position as

one of the finest pianists of his, or any generation.”

-Paula Edelstein, All About Jazz Magazine.

” … He was also able to bring out a lot of the subtleties of Cuban music into his jazz

playing in a very original way.”

-Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune.

” … Listen to the sleek pianism and exquisite instrumental dialogues between

Rubalcaba and his sidemen throughout “Paseo” and it’s clear how far he has come.”

-Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune.

” … Fire and energy reunite in an explosion that expands light and silences sound_ for

an instant. Melodic glimmers emanate from this nebula with just one Star: Gonzalo


-Suan Pineda, Columbia

” … His sparkle doesn’t hide behind the incandescence of these classic stars, however,

but proceeds from a unique source with its own light resulting in a synergy

between the genius of the past and the present.”

-Suan Pineda, Columbia.

” … You can take pianist Gonzalo Ru balcaba out of his native land – and that in itself is

news but you can’t take Cuba out of Gonzalo. The Personal and political passions so

long associated with the island, its pride and isolation in a vast and roiling sea, come

to live in his music.”

-Howard Mandel, Jazziz Magazine.

” .. .It’s not just his speed, it’s his touch …. lt’s not just his touch, it’s his ideas.”

-Marty Hughley, Aregonian, Portland.

” … This reason, which Rubalcaba has managed to balance with a precise dexterity,

dwell in the symbiosis between the know-ledge of yesterday and the exploration of

tomorrow.To revolve around the richness of Cuban and Latin American rhythms,

and return to a classical axis, forms Rubalcaba’s universal style.”

-Suan Pineda, Columbia.

” … And that’s because it isa minimalist musical expression- give that the essence of

minimalism is not the scarcity of details and decorations, but the abundance of

space. Rubalcaba provides this space, enough to ponder and to set afloat in the

periphery of our consciousness.”

– Suan Pineda, Columbia

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: “Fe” (“Faith”) (5Pasion)

by Janine Santana

Gonzalo Rubalcaba considers himself a blessed man. “Fe“, his first recording on his new label, 5Pasion, is a solo piano recording dedicated to the Creator. Like John Coltrane before him, Rubalcaba draws on his passion for composing and performing to create a devotion through music. The result demonstrates a new maturity in his work. It is heightened with a clean recording and Rubalcaba’s masterful knowledge of his instrument.

The chordal beginnings that begin the tunes Derivado 1, 2 and 3, which are placed at strategic points in the album, act like musical amens. The second and eighth tracks are tributes to Cuba’s Santeria faith, and there three tunes for Rubalcaba’s children Joan, Joao and Yolanda Anas. Two versions ofDizzy Gillespie’s Con Alma (With Soul), two versions of Blue in Green by Miles Davis and Bill Evans, and two improvisations based on John Coltrane’s work complete the theme.

In the second track, “Maferefun Iya Lodde Me”, Rubalcaba evokes the musical idea usually spoken by three Bata drummers in the Santeria religious ceremony. His use of space and his judicious use of dissonance create a powerful acknowledgement of God and reveals his sense of awe. In “Improvisation 2”, Rubalcabra invokes Coltrane, using ideas from “Giant Steps” and injecting his own twists, turns and joy into the piece. I found myself staring at my own piano, wondering if any of the 88 keys had not been used in this track! The first interpretation of Gillespie’s “Con Alma” has a strongly European sounding influence, specifically reminding me of Thelonious Monk’s Paris recordings. His attack is sensual, phrased creatively and charming. In “Preludio Corto # 2” (Tu Amor era Falso), Rubalcabra creates a memorial to Cuban composer Alejandro Garcia Caturla. The tune lilts and teases, builds tension and ends without a strong resolution.  The conclusion is symbolic of Caturla’s life, which ended abruptly when he was murdered at the age of 34.

The two interpretations of “Blue in Green” are re-imagined versions of the original recordings. Rubalcaba’s first version makes great use of minimalist expression that fills all the space of the composition completely. The second version begins with a strong sense of space, building in strength and flow with each carefully thought out measure expertly attacked. This is a far more melancholy beginning to the piece, but that yields to introspection by the end of the arrangement. “Con Alma II” is escorted in and out via flourishes in the lowest registers of the piano, framing it with a sense of play, yet the main body of the arrangement moves into a mature and elegant fluidity, carried forward with Rubalcaba’s signature sense of dissonance and broken rhythms. “Improvisation I”, is again successful in invoking the spirit and memory of Coltrane. Rubalcaba’s fingers fly through the scale ideas with ease, finesse and authority, as Coltrane’s did over the saxophone. It ends happily, with a sense of satisfaction. All three tunes dedicated to Rubalcaba’s children are joyful, leaving a different impression of each child’s personality…and may leave the listener breathless! A solo piano album is only as good as its instrument, and piano technician Karl M. Roeder has certainly made Rubalcaba’s Yamaha CFIII sound pristine and pure.


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