Archive for the ‘Critical Acclaim’ Category

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.

Newport Jazz Festival Review: By RICK MASSIMO Journal Pop Music Writer

Rhode Island News:

While mainstage closers guitarist Al DiMeola and pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba were denied the rest of their band due to visa problems, the duo managed some lovely moments, as well as some real fire on the closing “Mediterranean.”


The Providence Journal / Ruben W. Perez


Gonzalo Rubalcaba plays the piano as he performs with Al DiMeola on the main stage Saturday at the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport. The festival continues Sunday.




Jazz in Marciac : Days Five & Six

Comme beaucoup d’autres musiciens, Al Di Meola est passé par le fameux Berklee College of Music, il y étudie de 1971 à 1974 avant de rejoindre cette même année le groupe de Chick Corea Return to Forever. Il effectue par la suite plusieurs tournées mondiales avec Chick Corea. En 1980 il s’associe à John McLaughlin et Paco de Lucia pour la formation d’un trio d’exception. Depuis le début des années 1990, Al Di Meola a enregistré dans des contextes très divers en s’orientant de plus en plus vers la World Music. Ce soir il est rejoint par le pianiste Gonzalo Rubalcaba, une association qui risque de faire des étincelles. Le guitariste et le pianiste sont accompagnés de Peo Alfonsi à la guitare, Fausto Beccalossi à l’accordéon et Peter Kaszas à la batterie. Les musiciens ont choisi de nous interpréter un répertoire inédit, Al Di Meola précise qu’ils ne l’ont encore jamais joué ensemble. Le répertoire est composé de pièces très courtes. Parfois en duo, parfois en trio, parfois en quintet. L’accordéoniste Fausto Beccalossi, siffle ses solos en même temps qu’il les joue. Al Di Meola nous propose ensuite d’écouter quelques prestations en solo. Les musiciens quittent tous la scène, à l’exception du pianiste Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Le pianiste se concentre, prend son tomps, puis rompt le silence de manière très douce, il enfonce à peine les touches du clavier et maintient en haleine toute la salle pendant toute la durée de la pièce. Le pianiste qui ensuite la scène pour laisser place à la guitre d’Al Di Meola qui commence à jouer seul puis est rejoint par Peo Alfonsi et Fausto Beccalossi.  Pendant le solo d’Al Di Meola, Peo Alfonsi fait se sert de sa guitare comme percussions en frappant sur la caisse de résonnance avec sa paume. Les musiciens saluent le public avant de revenir sur scène pour le rappel, dès les premières minutes du morceau, une pluie diluvienne s’abat sur le chapiteau, tous les bénévoles courent s’abriter sous l’aile gauche, les musiciens s’arrêtent quelques secondes et lèvent la tête vers le ciel. Nous écoutons en silence le battement des gouttes d’eau qui retentissent sur la grande toile, puis la musique reprend son cours sous les applaudissements du public. Après ce premier rappel, le public en redemande, et les musiciens reviennent sur scène une seconde fois pour notre plus grand plaisir. Un très beau moment de musique que nous avons partagé avec ces cinq artistes.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Fe (5Pasion) By Fernando Gonzalez

The brittle condition of record labels (and not only jazz labels), has nudged artists into a do-it-yourself approach, and why not?. Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba has launched his own label, 5Pasion. Its first release is Rubalcaba’s  (Faith), a challenging solo piano recording including both originals and standards. This is no conventional, toe-tapping fare. Historically, in Rubalcaba’s approach elements of jazz, classical, (Cuban) traditional and popular music, have informed his playing and writing. In , Rubalcaba blurs the lines once more, while taking a decidedly exploratory approach. He deconstructs “Blue in Green,” (twice), and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma” (three times), and uses the harmonic structure of John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” as the basis for his own “Improvisation 1” and “Improvisation 2.” These pieces, and his own, play out as starting points from where he launches examinations of textures, space, counterpoint, melodic variations and more. It’s a work that suggests and demands, appropriately, a leap of Faith.


NewsTime- JAZZAHOLIC- “SIX OF THE BEST” – CD REVIEWS By Don Albert Thursday, August 04, 2011

Excerpt …For full article please visit  Jazzaholic

Fé … Faith from Gonzalo Rubalcaba, on which he has also been blessed with a wonderful piano sound on this, his first recording on his own label, 5Passion. In his faith for the Creator Rubalcaba goes into dark passages looking deep into his soul. The introverted passages are brightened by his crystalline single finger runs, making each note sparkle like stars coming out at night. At times he shifts through improvisations based on Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”, Miles ”Blue in Green” and Gillespie’s “Con Alma”. It’s demanding listening, and that‘s what you have to do to reap the rewards of this album.

From “Breath of Life” by Kalamu ya Salaam

Visit Kalamu ya Salaam


There are quiet places inside of all of us. Many of us are afraid of those spaces. Afraid of the thoughts we think when we are still and silent for extended stays when we are our own and only accomplice. Afraid too of what we feel when we are feeling all that is us, all that is the interior, the insides of whoever we are.

Do you know yourself? Are you comfortable with who you are? Could you spend hours alone and not go crazy, not reach for you phone, run to your car to go somewhere, grab some munchies to keep from concentrating on the inner hunger that impels you to put something inside of your mouth, a gag to keep from gagging on your own guts.

Most of us don’t meditate, don’t dare approach, not to mention actually cross, our personal mountains whose rough terrain, abyss-like cliffs, and rarified higher heights take strength and endurance to literally overcome, cross over to our other sides, the others inside us.

If you are ready, Gonzalo will spirit you there.

I hesitate to simply call this music, or jazz, or even solo piano. On one level that is certainly what this is, but on another level this is no mere elevator or escalator mechanically moving us about, this is journeying on another level taking us deep into the tips of ourselves, the pits of ourselves—alter as in the Latin alter = high or deep, depending on how it is used.

Really this is spirit fuel assisting your flight into the who of you, the what of you, all the memory, reactions, envisionings, thoughts and feelings, many of which are far, far beyond just whatever happens to be here and now. Each of our DNAs carry ancestor songs, whisperings, some strong, some weak, barely there, but there, always influencing every future movement, meaning.

We never leave who we are even if we become someone else. We just have added another layer, a different variation, a new vibration to the human chain that each of us is and extends. If we spawn no children, the specific chain stops with us but even so in how we have interacted with others we have passed on some of ourselves beyond ourselves.

We talk glibly about eternal soul, about heaven and that other place, don’t wait until you die to think you will discover who you are. You won’t discover anything more than you discovered when you were alive. Now is the time to go into the self.

The ancient inscription said: know thyself.

These sounds that Gonzalo produces are physical in the sense that he strikes levers that move hammers against taunt strings. He knows how to time the strikes, how to coordinate the strikes. The dynamics of the strikes; how hard to hit, how soft to caress. The sensitivity to create all of this on the fly guided by his own inner spirit is his awesome artistry.

Sometimes, like with “Imagine,” “Here’s That Rainy Day,” or “Con Alma”part of what Gonzalo does will be melodies and harmonic fragments that are familiar, but a lot of this is nuevo (i.e. new), a newness that comes up as he dips his piano bucket into the well of his own being. In this case his waters include portraits of his three children: Joan, Joao, and Yolanda.

If you have an undisturbed space and time where/when you can experience these sounds you will be rewarded with a glimpse of your emotional innards, the life pictures on the walls of your personality, exhibits that most of us seldom consciously consider. Through the fog of our judgments about what we feel about what we have experienced and about what we are, through this thicket of contradictions, revulsions, obsessions, social mal/adjustments, settlements and accommodations, little and large lies, as well as deep and sometimes starling truths, all of this will blink like a far off lighthouse in the night fog, a light calling us home, showing us the way to the harbor of our actual selves.

Can we cross the danger waters, navigate through the social swamps? Can we, are we willing to journey to the self, are we willing to embrace the self? The deepest beauty of jazz is that it is a genre that consciously and constantly pushes the artist and the listener to go naked, strip down and reveal the self for whoever, whatever that self may be. You will know when you are looking at your true self, even if you initially refuse to recognize yourself, even as you ask that eternal question that life conditions occasionally impel even the most stoic of us to utter: is this me? Is this me saying what I am saying, doing what I am doing, thinking what I am thinking, feeling… is “this” (whatever “this happens to be), is this me?

Look closer. Listen harder.

Spend time with yourself.

Gonzalo’s music can provide hours and hours of indescribable insights. Be gentle with these moments. Do not rush. Only the slow, only those who take time, will know all that there is to know about the person trying to do the knowing. No matter what we think about, it is still us thinking and therefore in the process of discovery it is us that ultimately matters most. Who we are is way, way before and far, far beyond what we think.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Cuban pianist, Havana born. 1963. Has made a bunch of recordings, won Grammy awards. Known as a daunting technician, able to play faster than most people can think. Full of rhythms, encyclopedic in his knowledge of harmonies, endless in his melodic inventions. Master of standards, shaman of folkloric music, original both as a composer and an interpreter. Everything he is and has been has come together in a masterful recording that indicates not just where Gonzalo is at, but indeed points towards where he is headed.

(Faith) is the first release on 5Passion, the record label Gonzalo has started.

It is my great pleasure to announce the formation of my very own record label, 5Passion. As we charge into the future, technology continues to evolve… and in many cases, continues to democratize many of the processes of major industries once reserved only for those with significant capital. These days, owning your own world-class studio and distributing your work in the virtual world is a very real and attractive possibility. These developments are “music to my ears,” as the opportunity to produce and distribute lots of great music and video with only the quality of the product in mind is at hand.
—Gonzalo Rubalcaba

is an exquisitely recorded solo outing. Rather than play a bunch of standards or even undertake a presentation of originals, this is more like a personal recital, literally a sonic stream of sub/consciousness during which he just plays. And plays, and plays. Songs come out sometimes in fragments that coalesce at the end, others are ideas formally developed. The interpretations of songs by others is idiosyncratic and mind altering, often out of tempo ruminations.

When I first heard  I was a bit put off, wanting to hear more of the Gonzalo magic I knew he could do with songs I already knew. But  is another kind of magic. This is the music that takes you to places you might not know that you actually know, i.e. places inside yourself consisting of all the places you’ve been, physical places, emotional places, imaginary places, all the places.

I should not have been surprised, Gonzalo has done this before. “Here’s That Rainy Day,” “Night Fall,” and “Beseme Mucho” are taken from his early 1997 album Solo and the reveal a similar approach.

These solo performances are only one facet of the jewel of Gonzalo’s artistry but this is a facet of invaluable and resplendent quality. Ashe Gonzalo. Giving thanks. Enjoy.

—Kalamu ya Salaam


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