Archive for the ‘Critical Acclaim’ Category

Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Ninety Miles ignite Cuban Jazz By Howard Reich

Howard Reich, Arts critic - 9:48 a.m. CST, December 1, 2012

The music of Cuba stands at the very root of jazz, its rhythms and song forms intermingling with sounds that emerged in New Orleans as the 19th century slipped into the 20th.

Today, when we think of Cuban jazz, we tend to look nostalgically back to the radiantly romantic music of pre-revolution Cuba celebrated in the “Buena Vista Social Club” film and its many off-shoot recordings. Their high lyricism and seductive dance beats evoke images of gleaming 1950s cars and glamorous nights in plush Havana nightclubs.

All of which made Friday night’s concert at Symphony Center an ear-opening tonic, for it thrust that music unflinchingly into the present. There was no revisiting past triumphs, no re-warming of Afro-Cuban musical clichés. Instead, a beautifully programmed double-bill showed how ancient ideas in Cuban music are being transformed for the 21st century and absorbing a vast range of influences from around the globe.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba ranks among the most accomplished jazz pianists in the world today and perhaps stands at the top of that elite group, thanks to a colossal technique and an unfettered musical imagination. In recent years, he has become increasingly introspective at the piano, particularly in solo work. For the most part, he has put aside his technical feats and explored, instead, the most intimate sounds and ultra-sophisticated harmonies he can draw from the instrument.

So his solo set, which opened this evening of Cuban music, amounted to something of a quasi-classical recital, albeit one laced with rhythmic motifs and compositional structures of his homeland. Even in referencing music of Cuba, however, Rubalcaba drew as much from its classical idioms as its jazz lexicon, in effect eradicating barriers between the two.

You could hear it in the way Rubalcaba embraced swing-tinged rhythm at one moment and its stricter classical counterpart the next, freely improvised statements without backbeat in some passages and meticulously articulated dance pieces elsewhere. Much of this music built upon the cross-genre achievements of the Cuban classical master Ernesto Lecuona, albeit in decidedly contemporary terms.

Rubalcaba synthesized many of these elements in an idiosyncratic re-invention of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma,” presented here as a Chopinesque rhapsody replete with exquisite melodic filigree and a remarkably advanced chordal palette. Only a pianist with Rubalcaba’s footing in both classical and jazz orthodoxies could have pulled it off.

Even in his encore, Rubalcaba teased listener expectations, offering what began as a seemingly abstract improvisation and only in its last bars hinted at its source material: the indelible “Besame Mucho.”

And yet, at least one listener wished that at some point in Rubalcaba’s set he would have burst free of so much hyper-cerebral pianism – as profound as it is – and simply cut loose with the kind of galvanic, Art Tatumesque virtuosity of which he alone is capable. Maybe next time.

Certainly the program offered a fitting counterbalance to Rubalcaba’s piano contemplations with Ninety Miles, a muscular ensemble of musicians from Cuba, the United States and beyond. Read More……

Twitter @howardreich


Albums with High Heat and Slow Curves – – BY MEL MINTER

Published September 6-2012

Gonzalo Rubalcaba XXI Century (5Passion Productions)

A sunny, optimistic outlook shines throughout XXI Century, the latest from accomplished pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Featuring compositions that stretch across multiple cultures and 50 years of music history, the album ranges from the percussive incantations of Rubalcaba’s “Oshun” to a delicately impressionistic take on Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered” and an impressive pianism on Lennie Tristano’s “Lennies Pennies.” Bassist Matt Brewer contributes the beautiful shimmer of “Anthem,” and guest guitarist Lionel Loueke (who’s on everybody’s recordings these days) adds his funky “Alafia” to the mix. Rubalcaba’s dance-worthy “Nueva Cubana,” which features a memorable guest appearance from guitarist Gary Galimidi, mixes Cuban roots with modern jazz harmonies. But it’s Enrique Ubieta’s “Son XXI” that most effectively summons Rubalcaba’s Afro-Cuban heritage. Marcus Gilmore provides the percussive ground on which the album dances, with assistance from guests Ignacio Berroa and Pedro “Pedrito” Martinez on a couple of tracks. It’s a satisfying journey from beginning to end, and the two-disc package contains extras that only your computer’s optical drive will reveal.


Audiophile Musician August 16, 2012 – Gonzalo Rubalcaba — 21st Century – 5Passion [2-CDs]

Gonzalo Rubalcaba — 21st Century – 5Passion [2-CDs]

Century XXI is an example of an experienced and polished musician and composer in the genre of Afro-Cuban music.

Published on August 16, 2012

Gonzalo Rubalcaba – 21st Century – 5Passion [2-CDs] Disc 1 – 49:51, disc 2 – 40:47 ***:

(Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Yamaha CFX acoustic piano & keyboards; Matt Brewer – acoustic doublebass, Arco bass & electric bass; Marcus Gilmore – drums.  Featuring: Ignacio Berroa – drums on “Moore”; Pedro “Pedrito” Martinez – Percussion on “Nueva Cubana”, “Fifty”, “Oshun:, “Son XXI”, “Alafia” & voice on “Oshun”; Lionel Leouke – guitar and voice on “Fifty” & “Alafia”; Gary Galimidi – electric guitar on “Nueva Cubana”)

Born in Havana, Cuba in 1963, Gonzalo Julio Gonzlez Fonseca known to the musical world by his popular name Gonzalo Rubalcaba comes with a family musical heritage having been influenced by his father, pianist Guillermo Rubalcaba.  There were numerous music personalities that visited their home as he grew up in Cuba.  His influences were also through recordings of Bud Powell, Thelonius Monk, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey, and Dizzy Gillespie.  Later while still in Cuba he was playing in venues in Havana.  Gonzalo relocated to America.  He has received  14 Grammy nominations.  He received 2 Grammy’s for Nocturne and Land of the Sun.  He earned a degree in music composition from Havana Institute of Fine Arts.  His heritage is in Afro Cuban music and was awarded the Vanguard Award by The ASCAP Foundation for “charting new directions in Jazz”.

Century XXI is an ambitious endeavor in pushing the edge of Latin and Afro-Cuban music.  In this album Gonzalo works with a core trio of musicians (Gonzalo, Matt Brewer and Marcus Gilmore).  He augments the trio on various tracks with other respected musicians.  These discs feature three compositions by Gonzalo, and some reworking of compositions of Bill Evans and Lennie Tristano.  Also featured is a composition of Matt Brewer, his bassist called “Anthem”.  The guest guitarist Lionel Leouke is featured with his composition “Alafia”.

“Nueva Cubana” is the first song of the album (disc 1).  The trio is augmented with electric guitar of Gary Galimidi. Gonzalo presents his great piano talents which he is noted for and was thoroughly enjoyable.  Bill Evans tune, “Time Remembered” starts very quietly in a soliloquy with just piano it starts building with light brushes on cymbals and transitions to bass soloing taking the lead.  About two thirds into the track the tune becomes more recognizable.  Almost imperceptibly the tune picks up in rhythm with a quiet finish.  With Evans it was a quiet ballad sound and Gonzalo has reworked it into a nice rhythmic Latin sound.  “Fifty,” composed by Gonzalo, is another nice changeup, getting a bit funky and pushing the edge with Lionel Leouke augmenting the core trio on guitar and voice.  It is a very catchy beat and enjoyable.  “Anthem” by the bassist Matt Brewer is a slow experimental melody led by Gonzalo on piano.  “Oshun” is a really cool example of Afro-Cuban Jazz with the chant of Pedrito Martinez the percussionist.

“Moore” is a tune of Paul Bley on Disc 2 of the album.  It is cutting edge with a lot of improvisation between musicians then starts into a quick walking bass and piano in jazz time.  Definitively cutting edge.  “Son XXI” is a tune by Enrique Ubieta and literally show cases each instrument.  Fine Afro- Cuban percussion, augmented by chorded piano and backing by the bass.  “Alafia” is a composition by Lionel Leouke, who is the guitarist and voice as well.  The tune starts with bass, percussion and piano engaging call and response.  The bass and guitar bring in the main theme with Gonzalo augmenting on piano.  Lionel comes in then picking and voicing with the notes.  The tune is catchy and interesting, moving towards the cutting edge of the Afro Cuban sound.  I would say “Nueva Cubana” and “Son XXI” were my favorites.

Century XXI is an example of an experienced and polished musician and composer in the genre of Afro-Cuban music who like John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and others who reach out to the edge of their music genre seeking that certain sound.  The album is nicely packaged in a cardboard case with slip out folded liner notes containing  pictures of the musicians.  There is a rather esthetic and thoughtful description by Gary Galimidi, the guitarist and Executive Producer.  And sound quality is excellent.

Track List:

CD 1: 1. Nueva Cubana; 2. Time Remembered; 3. Fifty; 4. Anthem; 5. Oshun
CD 2: 1. Moore; 2. Son XXI; 3. Alafia; 4. Lennie’s Pennies; 5. Oshun (short version).

—Tim Taylor


REVIEW – XXI Century – DownBeat Magazine By James Hale

Gonzalo Rubalcaba aims squarely for modernity with XXI Century (5Passion 010; 48:49/40:45 HH ) featuring his trio of  Matt Brewer and Marcus Gilmore and numerous guests. With a recurring undercurrent of Cuban rhythm, the pianist bows to his roots, but he seems as interested in taking his music to a more slippery realm, one where time becomes more elastic and hammered arpeggios move against backgrounds that slide in and out of focus. Brewer and Gilmore are ideal compatriots for this kind of voyage, and Rubalcaba makes the most of their ability to groove while keeping the ground shifting under your feet. A secondary theme is the radical revoicing of compositions by Bill Evans, Paul Bley and Lennie Tristano, each of whom did similar sleight of hand during their own time. This is smart, adventurous fun that works well on several levels.


Pourtant la meilleure des nouvelles s’ordonnait à se réjouir de la venue du talentueux cubain, Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Il a sa place dans la liste des pianistes de renom – – Al Di Meola – by Marceau BRAYARD

Photos by Laura Wilson

Pourtant la meilleure des nouvelles s’ordonnait à se réjouir de la venue du talentueux cubain, Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Il a sa place dans la liste des pianistes de renom…….Nous avons voltigé dans la stratosphère avec ce retour de Gonzalo Rubalcaba…….



La principale préoccupation de ce début de soirée consistait à se soucier de l’absence de réseau sur la petite boite que beaucoup portent en permanence à la main. Grosse crise existentielle pour ceux qui ne savent communiquer qu’avec cette bizarrerie du 21ème siècle.

Pourtant la meilleure des nouvelles s’ordonnait à se réjouir de la venue du talentueux cubain, Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Il a sa place dans la liste des pianistes de renom. Mais avant cette échéance captivante, il fallait subir une lancinante mélopée d’un ennui profond, authentiquement  propagatrice de fausses idées d’élaborations. Larry Carlton avait débuté en solitaire à sa guitare nous montrant le grand instrumentiste qu’il peut être. Gageons qu’il puisse un jour nous proposer un projet, où il ne se laissera pas aller à l’itération sidérante.

La pratique instrumentale de Gonzalo Rubalcaba s’élève dans une longue incubation préparatoire. Ce composant mouvant plein de serpentements, aux joies extatiques, rejoint le filigrane latino-américain. Le pianiste n’est pas là pour occuper une place décorative. Quand il s’évade on le voit au- dessus de ses touches en constante élévation. Il assigne sa pensée à accroitre ses audaces jazz, pour ne pas stagner sur un versant de tropicalisation qui lui serait rébarbatif à la longue. C’est toute sa force cette démarche et ce travail soutenu. De le voir ainsi décrocher cette mutation avec une pareille volonté farouche. Cette appropriation tantôt volcanique  puis tempérée, sera visible dans son unique partie solo durant laquelle il s’octroiera une de ses compositions « Derivado1 ». Sur son disque « Faith » il en exécute trois versions. Ce soir on peut penser qu’elle s’appellera « Derivado 38 » pour les influences que lui ont inspirées temporairement ces lieux. Car il en a dépeint une somptueuse toile faite de silence venant ponctuer ses harmonies remplies d’éloquences.


















La flute traversière devient l’accessoire de justesse pour s’opposer aux exigences du piano. Le titulaire de l’instrument à vent, Orlando « Maraca » Valle (arrangeur, compositeur et chef d’orchestre, cubain) vient s’adosser dans un duo ostensiblement  coloré, d’une foule de richesses variées aux traces insulaires.

L’accordéoniste Fausto Beccalossi d’une force virale de caractère, creuse sa voix par la tonalité gutturale. Il campe son phrasé sur une posture profondément grandiloquente. Volontairement forcé pour accentuer son emprise sur un certain instinct de vie immuable à l’action musicale. Il y a du déchainement dans son geste quand il absorbe un air lyrique en vociférant , liant à cela une improvisation non tempérée sur son instrument.

Pour Al di Meola rien de bien nouveau dans sa vision de guitariste haletant, depuis les années triomphantes du trio Paco de Lucia et john McLaughlin. Il a subi par la suite une cure de fusion qu’il s’administrera, et durant laquelle il s’adonnera sur plusieurs années. En tentant avec difficulté à imiter par moment, Weather Report, avec des réussites variées.

Il ressort ce soir des deux guitaristes  Al Di Meola et Kevin Seddiki des allures d’orgueil indomptable, à la floraison sauvage, d’un raisonnement musical qui n’est pas près de se dessécher. Ils se complètent dans une juxtaposition irénique hispanisante.

La seule fausse note sera la prestation affligeante du batteur boulimique Peter Kaszas. Ces apparitions incertaines déconstruisent l’équilibre du groupe en parasitant les probités qui en émanent.

Nous avons voltigé dans la stratosphère avec ce retour de Gonzalo Rubalcaba.

DERWESTEN.DE – WAZ – KLAVIERFESTIVAL – Jeder Ton wird zu einer eigenen Welt – Konstanze Führlbeck – 22.06.2012 | 17:25 Uhr

Hattingen.  Gonzalo Rubalcaba faszinierte mit Matthew Brewer und Marcus Gilmore beim Klavierfestival Ruhr in der Gebläsehalle

Er ist ein Pianist der Extraklasse: Leise vor sich hin träumende Klavierakkorde in impressionistischer Lautmalerei entwickeln sich in dem ungemein nuancenreichen Spiel Gonzalo Rubalcabas, in dem jeder Ton eine eigene Welt zu sein scheint, zu einer Melodie, deren Charakter durch den Einsatz von Bass und Drums plötzlich umschlägt und sich zu einer spannenden Jazznummer entwickelt. In diesem Stück „Anthem“ von Matt Brewer wird bereits die stilistische Vielseitigkeit und Meisterschaft Gonzalo Rubalcabas deutlich, der in seinem Spiel und vor allem auch in seinen eigenen Kompositionen verschiedene Stile zu einer neuen, unverwechselbaren und homogenen Einheit verbindet. Klassik unterschiedlichster Epochen und moderner Jazz, kubanische Traditionen und afroamerikanische Rhythmik verschmelzen zu einem ureigenen Ausdruck. Chopinartige Läufe wechseln mit perkussiven, markant akzentuierten kurzen Klavierphrasen und steigern sich in eine immer stärkere Erregung in Paul Blays „Moor“, um dann in einem rauschenden Klavierwirbel zu verklingen. Rockige Elemente bringt Gonzalo Rubalcaba mit seinen Partnern Matthew Brewer und Marcus Gilmore in seinem Stück „Fifty“ ins Spiel.

Über einem durchlaufenden kurzen Off-Beat-Motiv der linken Hand entfaltet der feinnervige Musiker zu einer zunächst dezenten hellen Drumbegleitung ein frisch-beschwingtes Thema, das zunehmend heißer und fetziger wird – Rubalcabas ausgesprochen experimentelles Stück „Oshun“ löst tosenden Beifall aus. An eine verträumte romantische Ballade erinnert seine Interpretation von Bill Evans’ „Time remember“, während „Son XXI“ durch kubanische Rhythmik geprägt ist. Unruhige Betriebsamkeit und pulsierende Erregung charakterisieren „Lennie’s Pennies von Lennie Tristano; das Klangbild verdichtet sich zunehmend und bietet Raum für ein virtuoses Drumsolo von Marcus Gilmore. Verhaltene Spannung vibriert in Rubalcabas „Nueva Cubana“, um nach einem Basssolo Matthew Brewers in eine immer rasantere Improvisation umzuschlagen. Mit der romantischen Ballade „Joao“ verabschiedet sich Gonzalo Rubalcaba von einem begeisterten Publikum.

Konstanze Führlbeck Gonzalo Rubalcaba Año XIV – Madrid, del viernes 29 de junio al lunes 2 de julio de 2012

Año XIV – Madrid, del viernes 29 de junio al lunes 2 de julio de 2012

El gran pianista cubano, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, sigue siendo una de las principales referencias del latin jazz, aunque su trabajo cada vez tiene más repercusión en el en el gran mercado estadounidense.

De momento, casi todas las estrellas de la fusión del país norteamericano han intentado en los últimos tiempos colaborar con él. En este video no encontramos al artista de la Isla con la excelente compañía del guitarrista Al Dimeola.

Jazz Life Japan- XXI Century

Something Else Reviews : Gonzalo Rubalcaba – XXI Century (2012) By Nick DeRiso

Gonzalo Rubalcaba – XXI Century (2012) By Nick DeRiso

A gutsy blend of contemplative Evans/Tristano-informed piano excursions and these grease-popping Cuban jams, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s XXI Century takes us on a journey across time and cultures. Along the way, Rubalcaba breaks down barrier after barrier — the ones standing between our concepts of what fits, and what doesn’t and the ones that keep our worlds separate.

XXI Century, due on May 29, 2012 from Rubalcaba’s 5Passion imprint, follows   2011′s Fe’ — but has little in common with that solo meditation on home, faith and family. Working instead with a few trusted compatriots, Rubalcaba firmly fixes his gaze outward. Too, where that album walked a finely drawn line between classical and jazz, here the pianist leaps headlong into the raucous cadences of his ancestral homeland.

Four of this expansive double-CD set’s 10 songs are Rubalcaba originals, beginning with the album-opening “Nueva Cubana” — a daring blending of hypnotic polyrhythms and nifty interplay between Rubalcaba and a talented band featuring bassist Matt Brewer (this percolating counterpoint throughout), drummer Marcus Gilmore and percussionist Pedro “Pedtrito” Martinez. “Oshun,” moves with an episodic determination, even as Rubalcaba switches to synthesizer, adding another atmospheric layer.

Guest guitarist Lionel Loueke sits in for the coiled funk workout “Fifty,” and his lyrical original “Alafia.” The brilliantly constructed “Son XXI,” from bimodal composer Enrique Ubieta, spills outward from a rumba pattern into these series of eddying percussive patterns — even as Rubalcaba tip toes by on the piano.


There’s more to this that rhythm vehicles, though, as Rubalcaba stretches out into the rippling zen-like unknowns of “Moor,” the Paul Bley composition. Brewer’s “Anthem,” a ruminative rubato, gives everyone a chance to play around the silences. Elsewhere, Lennie Tristano’s “Lennie’s Pennies” (which swings like crazy) and Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered” (lithe, gorgeous) are both given sensitive, complete readings of more than 10 minutes a piece — a rare opportunity made real over the course of this two-disc release.

Given a chance to stretch out (after all, he’s the label boss, right?), Rubalcaba reaffirms his place as one of the most important Afro-Cuban jazz figures to have emerged in the 1990s. He still possesses both the expected ebullience and the stirring power so long associated with Latin players — but also (and this is what makes him so special) the crystalline patience, and a thoughtful finesse, so few have managed.


Rudolfinum opanuje hvězdné muzikantské duo Al Di Meola a Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Autor: OB

Rudolfinum opanuje hvězdné muzikantské duo Al Di Meola a Gonzalo Rubalcaba

V pátek 11. května zahraje v pražském Rudolfinu unikátní muzikantské duo: slavný americký kytarista Al Di Meola a excelentní kubánský pianista Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Koncert se koná v rámci cyklu Jazz Meets World.

Al Di Meola je již třicet let plodným skladatelem i uznávaným interpretem. Má na kontěvícenež dvacet vlastních alb. Jeho uměleckou dráhu tvoří především živá vystoupení, v současné době především s jeho vlastním souborem World Sinfonia.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba a Al Di Meola

Meola prošel nejednou vysoce respektovanou hudební formací, například uskupením Tour de Force s Janem Hammerem, mezinárodně proslulým triem s virtuózními kytarovými kolegy Johnem McLaughlinem a Pakem de Luciou, a samozřejmě stylotvornou jazzrockovou skupinou Return To Forever Chicka Corey.

Pianista Gonzalo Rubalcaba je držitelem čtyř cen Grammy, na osm jich byl nominován.Získali řadu dalších ocenění pocelémsvětě. Umění Gonzala Rubalcaby se vyvíjí a stále nalézá inspiraci v afrokubánském odkazu, který nasával před svou emigrací přímo od zdroje na castrově “Ostrově svobody”.



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