Archive for the ‘Critical Acclaim’ Category

Up & Down Beats: In the Mood for Jazz – By Mishar – 19 May, 2012 – NewStraitsTimes


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Gonzalo Rubalcaba

IF it had been up to me, Gonzalo Rubalcaba would be highlighting tonight’s jazz festival, given his enormous gifts and facility with expanding the jazz vocabulary, in the manner in which Hiromi is attempting to do so.

Since he is almost near impossible to get, we’ll have to settle with his latest album, where he sets himself up in an incendiary ensemble, featuring Marcus Gilmore (drums), Matt Brewer (bass) and the redoubtable Lionel Loueke (guitar).

The Cuban-based landscape and Rubalcaba’s unfettered freedom  roam stylistically and creatively, and it shows in this humdinger.

The whole length and breadth of this album is roiling with virtuosic nods to jazz greats of the past but is also very circumspect in handling incredible passages.

Check out the expert interrogation of Moor, a Paul Bley-Gary Peacock composition, where Rubalcaba dives into an adventure in known and unknown territories.

Rubalcaba honours Bill Evans (Time Remembered) and Lennie Tristano (Lennie’s Pennies), both edging in harmonic sophistication.

Rubalcaba still indulges in limited flash and dazzle, if that’s what you require of him because of what he has done in previous albums, but XXI Century will grow exponentially in your mind as jazz of infinite credulity.



All About Jazz Gonzalo Rubalcaba: XXI Century (2012)


If Gonzalo Rubalcaba were a major league pitcher, he would be a seasoned veteran with the knowledge that to be effective he would have to be the master of multiple pitches. Gone are his rookie days when he could throw nothing but fastballs to get outs.

Same for Gonzalo Rubalcaba, jazz pianist. Twenty-five years ago he wowed audiences with his powerful attack and blinding speed. As his sound has matured, he has begun communicating with more subtlety, throwing audiences more off-speed and graceful pitches.

XXI Century is the second release from his own imprint, and like the previous solo outing,Fe…’Faith (5 Passion, 2011), he continues to reveal his expanding repertoire. This double disc plays off Cuban themes, percussive fusion, funk, and introspective improvisation.

Well chosen guests supplement his working trio of bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Marcus Gilmore. Rubalcaba’s opening “Nueva Cubana” traverses a percussive attack to etch itself upon the electricity of Gary Galimidi’s guitar. The sound is not so much a fusion of rock and Cuban jazz as it is a mutual path. Same with the funk laid down on “Fifty.” Lionel Loueke’s Afropop guitar bumps into Gilmore’s groove, and Rubalcaba’s Cuban vibe ties West Africa to North America and the Caribbean.

With the help of percussionist Pedro “Pedrito” Martinez, the groove stays firmly rooted in Cuba. “Son XXI” highlights the pianist’s percussive attack, matching the clavé with the keyboard—a dare to sit still.

While the pyrotechnics are present, the pianist also shows another side, covering Lennie Tristano’s “Lennie Pennies” as Keith Jarrett might eschewing rhythmic emotion for a mathematical precision. His take on Paul Bley’s “Moore” and Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered” expose a very thoughtful side, where the pianist opens compositions up to lighter swing.

Rubalcaba has mastered a backdoor strike here, not to keep the listeners off balance but to display his full array of talents.

Track Listing: CD1: Nueva Cubana; Time Remembered; Fifty; Anthem; Oshun; CD2: Moore; Son XXI; Alafia; Lennie’s Pennies; Oshun (short version).

Personnel: Gonzalo Rubalcaba: piano, Yamaha CFX, keyboards; Matt Brewer: acoustic double bass, arco bass, electric bass; Marcus Gilmore: drums; Ignacio Berroa: drums; Pedro “Pedrito” Martinez: percussion, voice; Lionel Leouke: guitar, voice; Gary Galimidi: electric guitar.



Gonzalo Rubalcaba XXI Century By Rachel Swan

Gonzalo Rubalcaba

XXI Century

By Rachel Swan

Track lists alone should tell you something about the omnivorous tastes of pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, the Cuban jazz pianist whose style is steeped both in Afro-Latin traditions and in the Blue Note records he consumed while growing up. And the song choices on his latest offering are particularly classy: four originals, a few not-so-obvious standards, and a few culled from his friends’ discographies. Among the ten are “Alafia,” by West African guitarist and frequent collaborator Lionel Loueke (who sings in a high warble over his own guitar solo), and a lean, percussive version of “Lennie’s Pennie’s,” a bebop piece by pianist Lennie Tristano.

Though he’s characterized as a Latin composer, Rubalcaba tends toward modern jazz — meaning he likes pungent harmonies and beats that swing. He’ll sometimes evoke a form without sticking to it exactly, as he does with the hybrid cha-cha beat that serves as scaffolding for Enrique Ubieta’s “Son XXI.” At other times, he’ll reinterpret a tune by sacrificing its sentiment, as he does on the Tristano cover. Rubalcaba’s version of the Bill Evans ballad “Time Remembered,” for instance, is a reverent reflection on (and departure from) its source material. The groove and chord voicings seem a little crisper and lighter than Evans would have liked, but the late master’s ghost hovers everywhere in Rubalcaba’s drawn-out introduction.

If anything, Rubalcaba proves that it’s possible to treat jazz as a pastiche art form and still retain all the sensitivity and musical depth that we associate with bebop of the Fifties and Sixties. He came up in a generation that defined itself largely on multiculturalism, and nowhere is that more apparent than on XXI Century. It’s an album that lurches forward, while gathering influences from all sides. (5Passion)


Miles Español- New Sketches Of Spain- Review by Steve Moffatt


There are so many highlights here, but for the sheer joy of his improvisational genius check out Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s Fantasia por Miles y Gil.


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5 PASION GONZALO RUBALCABA/XXI Century: Enough water has flown under the bridge since first hearing Rubalcaba that he’s now a middle aged man with already a full career behind him. Another former major label artist that’s been cut loose, he uses this freedom wisely, not having a mothership hem him into being the tyro he once was, playing more notes per second than anyone and otherwise being told what to do. He knows what to do and stretching out over this two disc set with some high faluting pals and guests, he leaves no doubt that he’s still the jazz force of nature he always was. Moving easy from being one of the most important new jazz figures to come out of the 90s to being an important figure of the 10s, this lite caliente Afro Cuban jazz romp delivers the goods throughout. Needless to say, it’s hot stuff. 10


Volume 35/Number 191
April 30, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest RecordVolume 35/Number 191
April 30, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

Review: Al DiMeola and Gonzalo Rubalcaba form a dynamic jazz duo–By Dan Emerson Special to the Pioneer Press

Pioneer Press

Guitarist Al DiMeola and pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba have performed together as part of DiMeola’s band, the New World Sinfonia. But Tuesday night’s performance at the Dakota jazz club was their first time playing as a duo, and the start of a national tour. Both musicians are virtuosos who bring classical technique and Latin influences to jazz improvisation. DiMeola, who began his career in the spotlight back in the early 1970s as a member of Chick Corea’s jazz-fusion juggernaut “Return to Forever,” has crafted a signature guitar style that combines complex syncopated rhythms with the sophisticated harmony of jazz and classical music. In recent years, he has spent much of his time exploring the music of the late Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla, who was a mentor and friend to DiMeola. The first few tunes of the opening set on Tuesday, March 20, were pieces DiMeola recorded with the Sinfonia on his most recent CD, 2010′s “Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody.” The duo opened with “Siberiana,” followed by “Mawazine” and “Brave New World.” With impeccable precision, DiMeola used a flat pick to play his acoustic guitar, and he also made judicious use of a few electronic effects to add sustain and fatten his tone, at one point producing a violin-like sound. He was not hampered by the lack of a rhythm section, using his left foot to tap out tempos with metronome-like precision. Playing a number of tango-influenced compositions, he employed gentle arpeggio sweeps punctuated with percussive, briskly-strummed chords. Rubalcaba, one of several brilliant pianists to emigrate from Cuba in recent years, also displayed flawless technique and mastery of sonic nuance. The set also included DiMeola’s beautifully rearranged solo version of the Beatles’ “Blackbird.”At one point, DiMeola exited the stage so Rubalcaba could perform an original solo composition. The piece featured some simple but eloquent left-hand harmony that evoked the style of French composer Erik Satie. DiMeola and Rubalcaba closed their opening set with the guitarist’s intensely-played composition “Turquoise.” DiMeola and Rubalcaba will perform again at the Dakota at 7 and 9 p.m. Wednesday. Their Dakota engagement was extended from one to two nights because of the cancellation of a scheduled concert by harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielemans.

Dan Emerson is a freelance writer and musician in Minneapolis.


Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Saturday, June 9, 2012 8:00pm at Herbst Theatre

Gonzalo Rubalcaba, solo

Few jazz pianists are better equipped to deliver a breathtaking solo recital than Havana-born Gonzalo Rubalcaba. The conservatory-trained master has integrated huge swaths of the European classical and jazz traditions, while maintaining bone-deep ties to the rhythmic currents of Cuba. Rubalcaba quickly gained fame on the American scene in the early ‘90s through the efforts of famed bassist Charlie Haden, who was blown away by the young virtuoso. At first Rubalcaba distinguished himself with his bravura technique and hair-raising rhythmic prowess, but over the past decade he’s rigorously honed his approach, delivering dazzling passages that seem to careen through the entire history of Cuban music. Creatively, everything the pianist touches turns to gold. He’s earned 15 Grammy nominations and won two Grammy Awards for his ravishing collaborations with Haden on Verve, Nocturne and Land of the Sun, and two Latin Grammy Awards for Solo and Supernova (both on Blue Note). Solo piano is the ideal setting for the maestro’s exquisite touch, which you can hear on his sublime new album, Fé (Faith), as well as this much-anticipated SFJAZZ date.


@Critical Jazz Sunday, September 18, 2011 Review by Brent Black

The zen quality of less is more has never been more fitting or at times displayed in a more beautiful and simplistic fashion than with the “Fe…Faith” 

An editor recently expressed an understandable concern over the use of the phrase “no good jazz is worth listening to on an ipod” The concern understandably rooted in the possible alienation of a certain segment of readers as well as giving the critic the appearance of being a “fuddy-duddy.”

Let’s face it, you don’t drink fine wine from a Dixie cup and you don’t listen to John Coltrane on 8-track.

Genius reviews itself…

Captivating, intriguing, almost addictive this recording is subtle and intimate in approach but grand in artistic scope. The sound quality is pristine which is essential in a solo piano recording. With styles that range from the subdued if not introspective to the bold and vibrant display of his Cuban heritage, Gonzalo firmly establishes himself as a modern day master of not only his instrument but of his own destiny with such an artistic triumph. Rubalcaba has had a prodigious output of recordings, 35 to be exact and none finer than “Fe…Faith.”

Aside from original compositions and a celebration of his own musical heritage, Rubalcaba takes on improvisations based on the work of John Coltrane and his mentor Dizzy Gillespie with stellar results. Rubalcaba pays homage to Coltrane with “Improvisation 2″ which kicks off with the chord changes from the master work “Giant Steps.” A Gillespie tribute is “Con Alma 1″ which opens with a dark almost brooding feel before moving to a more thoughtful melodic approach played in the middle register.

An incredibly personal work drawn from Rubalcaba’s wealth of musical knowledge and expression and a sincere desire to transcend the self imposed sonic barriers that separate jazz, classical and more popular styles, Rubalcaba bears his musical soul and with astonishing results.

The label here ( 5Passion ) is as much the story as the release as Rubalcaba states with great pride, ” It is my vision that 5Passion will one day be known as a record label affording artists a friendly environment in which to record their visionary music, without compromising their integrity for commercial consideration and constraining them from realizing their potential in all aspects of their professional lives.”

This statement alone can stand as the perfect review of this release.
Grand texture and a bold sonic color palette gives “Fe…Faith” a musical richness seldom heard today.

Artistic genius at its very best. A modern day Monk? Maybe…One of the finest releases of the year? No doubt!

July Issue of Jazz Japan by Kawade Shobo Shinsha


Kawade Shobo Shinsha

Jazz Tokyo


Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Discovery: Live at Montreux FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2010 Music for Nothing Blogspot

Discovery: Live at Montreux

Unless you sit around listening to shitty street punk all day, you’ve probably heard a lot of very talented musicians. But how often do you hear a real virtuoso? Not just some guy who shreds on a guitar real good, but somebody that defies you to believe that they’re even playing what they’re playing? Gonzalo Rubalcaba is that dude. This is the then-27-year-old pianist’s second public appearance in North America after being isolated in his native Cuba previously. This captures him playing in a trio with the ubiquitous Charlie Haden on bass and Paul Motian on drums, but the focus is on Rubalcaba all the way. By the time he finishes the first cut – Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” – you’re left gasping for breath and grasping for adjectives at the sheer force of it all. He come out on FIRE, launching run after run with astonishing clarity and creativity, breaking out some Cuban rhythm and displaying classical delicacy where required. Unbelievable.

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