Archive for the ‘Critical Acclaim’ Category



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.

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.

Return top