Archive for the ‘Critical Acclaim’ Category

Rattle has called the Cuban jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba “the most gifted pianist on the planet” and is a big fan of Sarah Vaughan.


Simon Rattle: will the maestro return home?


He’s here wowing British audiences, but if we want to tempt the giant of classical music back for good from Germany, we might need to give him a world-class concert hall

It is no overstatement to say that Simon Rattle has had a greater direct impact on the arts worldwide than any other living Brit. No other citizen of this country has climbed the peak of the world’s greatest orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, while bringing young musicians from the destitute barrios of Latin America to play for it. No British city has undergone quite such a resurgence of music as did Birmingham during Rattle’s time there.

For the music writer Norman Lebrecht to call Rattle “the Tony Blair of music” completely misses the point: behind the usual cliches about Rattle’s mop of hair, good looks and geniality lies an intensity with music that last week astounded London audiences hoping he might soon return to take over the London Symphony Orchestra.

But last week Rattle also made noises and waves of a different kind in that regard: making it clear that his enthusiasm for a permanent post in London, which he has never held, would take into consideration his view that the city that claims to be a capital of music boasts no top-class concert hall. He told the BBC that the high-end conditions under which major European orchestras work are “on the wildest edges of science fiction in this country, particularly in London”.

Yet British audiences adore the man born in Merseyside in 1955 probably more than any other conductor. They see him as their own, even though he further suggests that if he did take the post in London he would not live there while his family are settled in Germany. He calls himself “deracinated”, a genuinely, quintessentially European, international citizen. He is a Liverpool fan, but supported both clubs when the Reds travelled to Berlin to play his adopted city’s team, Hertha Berlin.

Logically, then, Rattle calls his heimat of Liverpool a city that “looks seawards, smoked Irish, the offside of the known universe, and it always was”. Yet unlike another Liverpudlian musical superstar – pianist Paul Lewis, who grew up in tough Huyton – Rattle was raised in what he calls “the Jewish, liberal-voting suburbs around Sefton Park”. While Lewis’s father was an unemployed docker, Rattle’s was a Royal Navy commander.

Rattle showed early and remarkable musical talent and brilliance of mind. He describes himself as “a weird duck… an uncomfortable, overweight, intense boy with this huge passion”. As a child, he “went to every possible thing [he] could”, played by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the orchestra then enjoying halcyon days under Sir Charles Groves. It played Europe’s first cycle of Mahler symphonies, with young Rattle in the audience.

At the age of 11, he was pleading with his father to take him on a school night to hear Groves conduct Messiaen’s vast Turangalila symphony: “I met Messaien and got the autograph. I still think it was one of the most thrilling moments of my life.”

Rattle enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music in 1971 and during his graduation three years later won the John Player International Conducting Competition.

Yet the intellectual Rattle remained restless and in 1980 he swerved into an academic year, reading English literature at St Anne’s, Oxford, explaining: “I’d never been to university and I wanted to.” He was happy to discover that he could be “just as moved by Andrew Marvell or Ulysses” as by music.

But then he took, in a way, his most significant if not biggest step: joining and then taking over the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, which he transformed into a top-flight ensemble and moved into Britain’s finest concert hall (even if all things are relative).

There, Rattle established the repertoire with which he would change life in Berlin: in addition to a Mahler cycle and the Austro-Germanic staples, there was Dvorak, Bartok, an overwhelming Glagolitic Mass by Janacek and, perhaps above all, Sibelius, whose symphonies he recorded in Birmingham to a level no one has since achieved. It was with Sibelius that Rattle stunned London last week.

So it was with a provincial English orchestra that Rattle showed how vision and inspiration can work in music, and that lured him to Berlin, and Berlin to him, in 2002. His debut with the orchestra had been a performance of Mahler’s devastating 6th Symphony in 1987.

At the heart of German music, however, Rattle’s innovations raised eyebrows among those who put an absolute premium on the core repertoire of Beethoven, Brahms and Wagner. Rattle’s retort has been straightforward: to play both the Germanic and other repertoires with insight, vigour and passion that amounts to genius. Wagner on period instruments, Rameau and French baroque, the Czech and Russian masters, Viennese modernists and contemporary premieres inspired by them – and of course “his” Sibelius. When he brought the Berliners to Liverpool in 2008, he played not what was expected of the Germans, but Turangalia, for old time’s sake.

In 2013, however, Rattle announced that he would not seek to remain in Germany beyond his current contract, which expires in 2018. “Will you still need me when I’m 64,” joked the Scouser, noting his age that year.

The man Rattle beat to the top job in Berlin was Daniel Barenboim, who remains across the Postdamerplatz as director of the Deutsche Oper. It is mind-boggling to imagine them in the same city, just as it will be when and if the LSO’s electrifying incumbent Valery Gergiev and the great Mariss Jansons share Munich, as is likely.

Barenboim has become almost as famous for his work bringing together Israeli and Palestinian musicians into the same orchestra, and Rattle has made his equally indelible mark on the notion of music as peace and liberation. He has been the leading exponent of, guest of, crusader for and unofficial patron of the miracle known in its native Venezuela as El Sistema, whereby young people from some of the poorest barrios are given instruments and redeem their lives by playing.

Their orchestras rank among the world’s finest and their first conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, is a global star. I remember interviewing former crack addicts and child prostitutes about their endeavours with Beethoven and Mahler, and an 11-year-old violinist in El Sistema’s youth orchestra telling me: “Oh, round here it’s more cool to be into Strauss than salsa.”

“El Sistema brings hope, through music, to hundreds of thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost to drugs and violence,” says Rattle, insisting that its founder, José Antonio Abreu, should be awarded the Nobel Peace prize for his work.

Rattle took El Sistema’s ideas back with him to Berlin, as well as the 18-year-old double bass player Edicson Ruiz, the Philharmonic’s youngest-ever recruit, who says: “When I was nine, I didn’t know I would get a meal at night or every day – but I did have a viola.”

Inspired by an entwinement of his outreach work in Birmingham and the model of Venezuela, Rattle launched the Berlin Philharmonic’s first education programme for youth on the city’s frayed edges, something the LSO had pioneered long ago and at which it excels. It should thrive all the more if Rattle arrives.

This passionate interest in music as redemptive life-enhancer rather than just “entertainment” is reflected in the private Rattle, the family man and music lover as well as maker. His romantic life has been a colourful one. He was married first to the American soprano Elaine Ross, with whom he had two sons (one of them, Sacha, is an acclaimed clarinettist), then came the screenwriter and political activist Candace Allen, before Rattle fell madly and mutually in love with Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena, with whom he has two more sons, Jonas and Milos.

At home nowadays, he says: “The jazz records come out a lot. You find that with many musicians – we don’t listen to our own music for relaxation.” Rattle has called the Cuban jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba “the most gifted pianist on the planet” and is a big fan of Sarah Vaughan.

He has installed a cinema-size screen in the house, on which his wife catches up with western films by Stanley Kubrick and Werner Herzog that never made it behind the iron curtain, and the maestro himself catches up with any episodes he may have missed while touring of the favourite family series: The Sopranos.


Born Simon Denis Rattle, 19 January 1955 in Liverpool. His father was a commander in the Royal Navy. Studied at the Royal Academy of Music. He has been married three times and has five children.

Best of times He spent 1980-98 with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, where he made his reputation, and guided the orchestra to a newly built concert hall. Being appointed the principal conductor of Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, where he has enjoyed countless triumphs.

Worst of times Few professionally – he has had to withstand the occasional jibe from German music critics unhappy with his handling of the national repertoire, but these have been outweighed by praise.

He says “I have no satisfactory answer [to what a conductor does] because whatever you say, the opposite would also be true. It’s to do with controlling and not controlling, allowing and not allowing. It’s essentially to do with balance.”

They say “Simon Rattle does it [Turangalila] perfectly: he understands its primal rhythmic life force, and he and the wonderful Berliners make it a sheer riot of orchestral colour.”

Charles Hazlewood, conductor



**The following article mistakingly attributes Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s dedication of his performance at Umbria to Johnny Winter. Although we all lament the passing of the great blues/rock guitarist, it must be clarified that Gonzalo dedicated his performance to Charlie Haden. Charlie was instrumental in Gonzalo’s sucess and was a very dear friend.  

Umbria Jazz Festival 2014

Gonzalo Rubalcaba viene considerato da alcuni critici, e non a torto, uno tra i più grandi pianisti jazz contemporanei viventi. Nella sua carriera ci sono anche 8 nomination ai Grammy, che non sembrano essere davvero poca cosa per un artista. Il suo tratto caratteristico è l’umanità e la forte partecipazione emotiva delle sue esibizioni, sempre frutto di nuovi progetti. Appena terminata la fase decisamente poetica ed intima suonata in trio, ecco aprirsi quella nuova e scoppiettante di Volcan, il nuovo album dedicato ai 4 elementi, terra, aria, vento e fuoco. Per questo nuovo lavoro, la formazione scelta da Rubalcaba è quella del quartetto con protagonisti del calibro di Horacio ”El Negro” Hernandez alla batteria, Jose Armando Gola al basso sei corde e Giovanni Hidalgo alle percussioni.
Senza mai abbandonare le tradizionali sonorità della terra di origine, il pianista cubano mette in scena tutta la capacità compositiva del jazzista di rango, usando il pianoforte ma anche la tastiera elettrica. Impressionante la differenza di tocco rispetto a Hiromi e Camilo. Rubalcaba vola e non da la sensazione di “pestare” i tasti per ottenere un suono deciso e potente, rimanendo comunque incollato alla tastiera in tutti suoi passaggi più complessi. Volcan è un lavoro molto interessante ed ha delle idee compositive che lo rendono del tutto originale, come i vorticosi cambi di passo tra accenni di son cubano e assoli di puro stampo jazzistico. Pur sempre metà e metà, a quanto pare.
L’animo nobile di Rubalcaba trova spazio nel concerto per una dedica a  Johnny Winter** , l’albino del rock scomparso ieri a 70 anni.
Nel complesso il pubblico di Perugia è soddisfatto ed applaude con partecipazione, andando fin sotto il palco, come ancora non ci era capitato di vedere in questa edizione.


Jam Magazine- Viaggio Nella Musica- Incontri Visti Da Vicino – RAPSODIE RADICALI – Il pianista Gonzalo Rubalcaba alla corte di Al Di Meola Per GIAN FRANCO GRILLI

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Il pianista Gonzalo Rubalcaba alla corte di Al DiMeola

Cubano, 50 anni (ma ne dimostra meno di40), otto nomination ai Grammy, circa trenta album, Gonzalo Rubalcaba è assieme al gigantesco Chucho Valdés uno dei grandi innovatori del pianismo jazz di scuola afrocubana. La forza portento sa della sua mano sinistra, un formidabile senso ritmico e un superbo modo di fraseggiare lasciarono a bocca aperta Dizzy Gillespie e Charlie H aden, di passaggio per Li \ vana a metà anni ’80. Da quel momento si è aperto un cammino folgorante e inarrestabile per il musicista avanero, che si è mosso nei più diversi contesti musicali collaborando in modo trasversale con i grandi della musica internazionale. Ora ama dialogare con la chitarra virtuosa di Al Di Meola, con il quale prima dell’estate si esibito in Italia, a Vicenza jazz.

Hai suonato con tutti i più importanti nomi della musica e in modo trasversale. Com’è iniziata la collaborazione con Al DiMeola? «Lui è sempre stato interessato ai musicisti cubani, conosce bene i nostri ritmi, dal guaguanc6 al bolero, l’ho sempre ammirato. La collaborazione è scattata ai tempi di Pursuit DJ Radica/ Rhapsody quando DiMeola mi chiese di raggiungerlo nello studio di Miami dove stava registrando. Lì, su due piedi sono stato coinvolto nella realizzazione del cd. Dopo l’uscita dell’album abbiamo incominciato a fare concerti con la sua band, apparivo come ospite suonando non più di cinque brani. Poi, da poco più di un anno, abbiamo deciso di suonare in duo le musiche del disco».

Oltre al virtuosismo, esiste un altro punto in comunetra te e Al: i timbales. Li suonavi con l’orchestra di tuo padre Guillermo, mentre Di Meola negli anni ’70 si divertiva con le bacchette a disegnare grappoli di doppi colpi e rim shot … «Francamente non ci avevo mai pensato, ma è vero. Sono stato batterista, ma suonavo anche i timbales, che a Cuba chiamiamo pailas».

Qual è il tuo contributo al duo? «Quasi tutte le composizioni in scaletta sono di Al DiMeola. Assieme cerchiamo di condensare, con piano e chitarra, gli strumenti impiegati in Pursuit Of Radical Rhapsody, e allo stesso tempo forgiare un nuovo linguaggio mescolando jazz a stili e accenti ispanoamericani, senza rinunciare alle nostre specificità. Nel concerto si spazia molto, dal Double Concerto di AstorPiazzolla ai Beatles; in mezzo c’è un momento in cui Al suona da solo e un altro tutto per me dove eseguo mie composizioni e classici di musica cubana … ».

Hai citato i Beatles: che ne pensi dell’omaggio di Al DiMeola?  <<All Your Life – è un bel tributo, un lavoro all’altezza dei migliori di Al>>

Veniamo ai tuoi progetti. Che novità in arrivo? «Ho inciso un disco coi Volcan, il quartetto con Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez alla batteria, Giovanni Hidalgo alle percussioni e il contrabbassista Armando Gola. L’album presenta quattro brani miei, due brasiliani, cioè Corsari o di joao Bosco e Ano nova di Chico Buarque, che scrisse nel 1967 e mi piace per come è trattata la melodia e per le parole. Così ho voluto regi strame una versione strumentale con un mio arrangiamento
per quartetto. Infine c’è un omaggio a Dizzy Gillespie con una mia versione un po’ ribelle di Salt Peanuts [il disco uscirà in autunno]».

È la prima reunion con Horacio “El Negro”? Con un duo percussionistico così vertiginoso immagino che il disco sia un mix pazzesco di ritmi afrocaraibici e di piano jazz … «A parte un laboratorio musicale nei pressi di Barcellona di circa sei anni fa, sì, questa è la prima volta che mi ritrovo con Horacio per una produzione discografica dal lontano 1990, quando lui cessò la collaborazione con il mio Grupo Proyecto. Beh, l’aggettivo vertiginoso calza a pennello, non mi risulta che nel mondo sia mai esistito qualcosa di tale livello tecnico ed espressivo: in due suonano come dieci percussionisti. Sono molto entusiasta di aver lavorato con questi artisti e del risultato di questo progetto».

L:ultimo album di Rubalcaba è Century XXI (2011). ma ha già inciso un album col quartetto dei Volcan, ovvero Horacio “El
Negro” Hernandez (batteria), Giovanni Hidalgo (percussioni) e Armando Gola (contrabbasso).

The China Post news staff September 14, 2013, 12:01 am TWN

Famous jazz pianist to give memorable concert in Taipei

The China Post news staff
September 14, 2013, 12:01 am TWN

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The party ain’t over till it is over, or, better still, it ain’t over till the National Theater Concert Hall’s temperature reaches the boiling point when jazz great Gonzalo Rubalcaba peforms in a Saturday, Sept. 14 concert.

The Cuban-born pianist, whom the New York Times once referred to as one of the greatest jazz musicians, will wrap up the National Theater Concert Hall’s “2013 Summer Jazz Party” with a trio performance along with bassist Jose Armando Gola and drummer Ernesto Simpson.

The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, priced at NT$500, NT$800, NT$1,200, NT$1,600, NT$2,000 and NT$2,500, are available online at The concert is preceded by a brief introduction in the concert hall lobby at 7 p.m.

Students, members of the Eslite Club, users of the Mercedes-Benz Platinum credit card, and members of “Friends of the National Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Center and National Theater Concert Hall” are eligible for discounts. Further information is available at 02-3393-9888.

Best known for his beautiful album “Avatar,” Gonzalo Rubalcaba is modest about his achievements. “I never called myself a jazz musician,” he said.

Attributing his success to his extensive exposure and the works of others, he said: “I think it is important to have a wide background, to have an unprejudiced view … without divisive limits. In the end this helps to enrich your experience and wisdom.”

Rubalcaba comes from a musical family in Cuba: his father and grandfather were prominent members of popular orchestras. His father, Guillermo Rubalcaba, was for a time the pianist in the band of the violinist Enrique Jorrin, who created the cha-cha-cha, according to the New York Times.

El otro modo de ser de Rubalcaba – Pablo Sanz – El Mundo – Lunes 8, Julio 2013


El pianista cubano, de nombre Gonzalo, apabulla con una lección de virtuosismo…

El jazz es la única música donde el virtuosismo interpretativo se vendea la baja, porque la técnica instrumentalya se le presupone y aquí lo que cuenta es lá emoción final. A Gonzalo Rubalcaba le hemos visto últimamente demasiado obsesionado por la matemática musical, buscándoleteclas que no había a suinstrumento y calculando éxitos que sólo le interesaban a él. Su pasopor el Getxo Jazz, sin embargo, nos reencontró con aquel joven pianista que tenía muchas cosas que de contar, cuando se hacía llamar Gonzalito y, entonces sí, le faltaban teclas. Nos reencontró con el otro

Rubalcaba, el bueno, vaya. El pianista cubano acudió escoltado por un trío cómplice e igualmente seducido por el valor de las esencias, el contrabajista Armando Gola y el baterista Ernesto Simpson. Todos demostraron que las partituras en jazz son de goma, pero que si las estiras el papel queda tan deformado que acaba siendo, no ya otra cosa, sino su contraria. Y esto es lo que aporta el otro Rubalcaba: precision en el relato y economía en sus recursos.

Y, por supuesto, mucha emoción, porque allí disfrutamos todos, los artistas y el público. En el inicio de su recital, el trio atacó una maraviijosa versión del Time remembered de Bill Evans, dejando claro que le arrebata el jazz por derecho. Es un intérprete consumado, ya se ha dicho, pero tambiénun creador sublime, de ahí quela.pieza sonara nueva. Sus braceros le respetan la cadencia, porque Rubalcaba sabe mucho del tempo, entregándosea un acompañamiento medido y … comedido. Así, los colchones rítmicos gregarios fueron contestados con el lirismo propio de un artista con conocimiento y causa, de un intérprete que tiene poder y autoridad.


Gonzalo Rubalcaba también echó mano de su condición latina, que algunos espectadores aprendieron de su etapa junto a uno de sus principales mentores, el contrabajista Charlie Haden. No obstante, este sentimiento Moreno del pianista es más verdadero y natural cuando no tiene padrino, firmando en Getxo una pieza para el Olimpo caribeño: Nueva cubana. Y así fue desarrollándose el concierto, entre palabras mayores de jazz y fraseos tostados. El público acabó rendido a su pianismo, que en el capítulo de los regalos se encargó de liberar en solitaño y recordando a Coltrane y su querido Haden: fueron dos trazos melódicos de una belleza inusual, al menos, de una hermosura a la que este habanero estadounidense no nos tenía acostumbrados en sus últimas comparecencias.

El 37° Getxo Jazz ha cumplido expediente administrativo con creces, colocando el «no hay billetes» prácticamente todos los días. En el balance musical, curioso, fuerondos cubanos -el percusionista Ignacio Berroa y el mencionado Rubalcaba- los que protagonizaron los mejores momentos, mientras que en el apartado del concurso de grupos de jazz europeos el oro se fue para Polonia, gracias al concurso del joven quinteto del trombonista Bartosz Pernal y el pianista Michal Szkil. El galardón al mejor solista, sin embargo, tomó rumbo a Dinamarca, gracias al buen hacer del pianista Artur Thznik.

Excerpt- The Best Pianos (I’ve Heard) of 2012: A Round-Up of Notable Recordings – Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor -Jazz Police Friday, 01 March 2013

21st century cd

Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor Friday, 01 March 2013…..Read More……


Gonzalo Rubalcaba, XXI Century (5 Passion, 2012). For his second release on his own label, Cuban mega-star pianist Rubalcaba covers a wide range of sources across 2 disks – from his own “Nueva Cubana” and 3 other composi

tions to works by piano legends Bill Evans, Paul Bley and Lennie Tristano, one from fellow Cuban composer Enrique Ubieta, and one each from recording cohorts Matt Brewer and Lionel Loueke. The core trio here includes Brewer on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums, with guest turns from Loueke, electric guitarist Gary Galimidi, drummer Ignacio Berroa, and percussionist Pedro Martinez.  Rubalcaba’s opening “Nueva Cubana” is enhanced by the contributions of Galimidi and Martinez, a jaggedy swaying celebration that melds an electronic funkish vibe to more familiar Cuban melody and rhythm;  Brewer distinguishes himself early with an acrobatic solo that seems at home in the Caribbean as much as in the Big Apple. Martinez and Loueke join in on the pianist’s “Fifty,” taking a more direct feed from funk as well as African rhythm and somehow suggesting some early Herbie Hancock along the way. Bill Evans’s classic “Time Remembered” is delivered in delicate wrapping by the trio, as beautiful and subtle as the composer’s own renditions.

Berroa opens the second disk and Paul Bley’s “Moore” with a rumbling thunderstorm; Brewer adds some haunting bowed flutters and squeals, then dark walking lines, as Rubalcaba scatters and tinkles through melodic fragments. Rubalcaba’s “Oshun,” played in longer and shorter versions across the two disks, showcases the pianist’s melodic and rhythmic talents as well as the collaborative force of the core trio. In all, this is a welcome showcase of the diverse talents of Gonzalo Rubalcaba and the range of music that defines jazz in century XXI.

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.


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