Archive for the ‘Critical Acclaim’ Category

Piano & Keyboard – The 20th Century – November/December 1999

Gonzalo Rubalcaba, an outstanding young jazz pianist, has recently begun to incorporate some characteristics ofhis Cuban roots into his otherwise pure jazz stylings. Jazz, born in America early in the century, has become an international language by the century’s end as artists from other cultures infuse this language with qualities and rhythms that reflect diverse backgrounds.

Jazziz Magazine June 20, 2009

GONZALO RUBALCABA – AVATAR

rubalcaba_avatar

Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Avatar

(Blue Note)

Over the course of his two decades in the jazz swim, consummate Cuban-born pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba has pursued multiple directions and projects, in sync with his restless muse. With his latest, Rubalcaba has assembled a solid band of NYC players – including saxist Yosvany Terry (also of Cuban heritage), trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, bassist Matt Brewer, and volcanic drummer Marcus Gilmore – and thrown them into the artistic fray with minimal rehearsal and preparation. Taking his album title from the renowned NYC studio, the leader is clearly celebrating a New York state of mind and musical intensity, with much to admire in the end result.

From the first minute of the recordings through his solo piano musings opening “Looking in Retrospective,” we’re reminded of his remarkable – even classic? – solo album. But once the band enters the sonic picture, it’s clear that Rubalcaba is embarking on new turf this time, with less of a direct link to his Cuban roots than in earlier ensembles, and with rhythmic assertions reminiscent of such models as Chick Corea’s acoustic bands, the late period Tony Williams quintet work, and M-BASE math funk.

A team player and symbiosis-seeking leader, Rubalcaba himself keeps a fairly humble, integrated role in the band. Terry supplies a few of the tunes, including the snaky-yet-swinging odd-time excursions of “This Is It” and “Hip Side.” Rubalcaba’s brisk original “Infantil,” dedicated to John McLaughlin, gives the pianist a ripe forum for his probity and crystal brilliance at the keyboard. Virtuosic flights aside, though, it may be his burnished reading of Horace Silver’s haunting ballad “Peace” that best illustrates how Rubalcaba has evolved and matured over the years. Here is one deep, and deepening, player, now settled in the uppermost ranks of living jazz pianists.

– Josef Woodard

Il trionfo Italiano di Gonzalo Rubalcaba

12 maggio 2010 Il trionfo italiano di Gonzalo Rubalcaba

di Franco Fayenz

Sei anni or sono, a fine maggio, il club Blue Note di Milano ospitò per alcune sere il pianista cubano Gonzalo Rubalcaba in veste di solista. Fu una rivelazione, almeno dalle nostre parti e per gli ascoltatori più attenti, che si ripetè cinque mesi dopo nei concerti di Musica per Roma. Rubalcaba, che oggi ha 47 anni, non era di certo uno sconosciuto. Figlio d’arte, maturato come pianista e compositore attraverso severi studi classici e poi jazzista per scelta, aveva ottenuto successi in tutto il mondo e vinto un premio Grammy dopo che il contrabbassista Charlie Haden, in tournée a Cuba nel 1986 con la sua Liberation Music Orchestra, lo aveva ascoltato per caso e ne era rimasto entusiasta. Quattro anni più tardi lo portò con sé in Svizzera al Festival di Montreux, in trio con Paul Motian alla batteria, proiettandolo nell’élite internazionale dei musicisti di jazz. Ciò malgrado numerosi critici (anche e soprattutto italiani, si direbbe) non accreditarono mai Rubalcaba di quella marcia in più che fa di un pianista un grande pianista. Ma il motivo, nascosto e inconsapevole, c’era. Rubalcaba, nei concerti e nei dischi, si esibiva sempre in piccoli gruppi, dal duo al sestetto, rinunciando sempre – è naturale che sia così – a una parte della propria personalità per concorrere a formare quella del complesso. Qualcosa, quindi, rimaneva in ombra, e non erano sufficienti un paio di cd solitari a fare piena luce sulla sua vera statura. Nel 2004, a Milano e a Roma, alcuni esperti hanno capito, e di conseguenza hanno cercato di rivedere la sua biografia artistica e di riascoltare con la massima attenzione i suoi cd, però a livello di pubblico non è bastato. Adesso Rubalcaba si è presentato da solo al quindicesimo Festival internazionale del jazz di Vicenza (tuttora in corso). Fra grandi nomi come Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, McCoy Tyner e il batterista ottantacinquenne Roy Haynes poteva perfino passare inosservato. Qualcuno, fingendosi poco al corrente delle sue vicende, gli ha chiesto la ragione della sua solitudine. «E’ una decisione che ho preso qualche tempo fa» ha risposto «e ormai le eccezioni a questa mia regola sono sempre più rare. Mi sono accorto che suonando da soli si è completamente liberi; in due si è meno liberi, figuriamoci in un gruppo. Io lo so bene, e so pure che l’improvvisazione in solo implica maggiori rischi, ma vale la pena di correrli». Il suo concerto ha avuto luogo nell’incanto del Teatro Olimpico, naturalmente senza amplificazione. La bellezza della sala ha sollecitato Rubalcaba a dare il meglio, lo ha detto lui stesso. Ha iniziato in modo quasi sommesso, prendendo quota nota dopo nota. Ha messo in evidenza tecnica, tocco, tatto (le famose tre t del pianista russo Nikita Magaloff), un fraseggio nitido e superbo, velocissimo dove occorreva, e una perfetta indipendenza delle mani. Seguendo una discutibile abitudine, molti gli hanno cercato nel jazz un pianista progenitore. Ma al massimo ce n’è uno solo, per virtuosismo e geniale inventività, ed è il sommo Art Tatum. Verso la fine del concerto è affiorata l’anima neolatina di Rubalcaba in un tema che gli è caro, Besame Mucho, e nelle prodigiose variazioni con cui ha abbellito il poco noto Peanut Vendor. E’ stato un trionfo, e questa volta lo ricorderanno tutti.

12 maggio 2010


GONZALO RUBALCABA QUINTET Centro Cultural Miguel Delibes Sala Teatro Experimental “Álvaro Valentín” (Valladolid)

GONZALO RUBALCABA QUINTET

Centro Cultural Miguel Delibes Sala Teatro Experimental “Álvaro Valentín” (Valladolid)

20 de noviembre de 2010 – Crónica por Borja Sánchez Mayoral

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: piano

Yosvany Terry: saxos alto y soprano

Mike Rodriguez: trompeta y fliscorno

Matt Brewer: contrabajo

Ernesto Simpson: batería y percusión

Contar en la programación de conciertos de Valladolid con un músico de la talla de Gonzalo Rubalcaba ha sido todo un acierto. Con 47 años, Gonzalo Rubalcaba –de nacionalidad cubana y americana- es un pianista destacad de la escena jazzística internacional de las dos últimas décadas, poseyendo una carrera sólida donde se combinan tradiciones musicales de Cuba y Estados Unidos. Potenciadas sus inquietudes y habilidades desde pequeño porsu padre –el pianista Guillermo Rubalcaba-, Gonzalo despuntó desde jovencito. Sus primeras grabaciones datan de comienzos y mediados de los 80, llegando a firmar en 1990 un LP extraordinario con Charlie Haden y Paul Motian, ‘Discovery: Live At Montreux’.

Este álbum, donde su enorme virtuosismo tuvo una mayor proyección, supuso el espaldarazo definitivo en una trayectoria que presentó en su siguiente trabajo, ‘The Blessing’ (1991), también en formato trío –en esta ocasión con Charlie Haden y Jack DeJohnette-, otro hito de unas dimensiones artísticas equivalentes. En el resto de la discografía de Gonzalo Rubalcaba también podemos encontrar numerosos surcos interesantes, entre otros los contenidos en ‘Mi Gran Pasión’ (1987), ‘Rapsodia’ (1992), ‘Inner Voyage’ (1999), ‘Supernova’ (2001) y ‘Avatar’ (2008), trabajos en los que el pianista demuestra asimismo una versatilidad notable. El quinteto de Rubalcaba llegó a la sala Teatro Experimental del Auditorio Miguel Delibes con la intención de interpretar ‘Avatar’, el penúltimo trabajo del pianista si tenemos en cuenta que hace muy poco ha publicado ‘Fe’ (2010), un extenso disco en solitario lanzado desde su sello 5Passion, recientemente fundado junto a Gary Galimidi.

De las siete composiciones de ‘Avatar’, solo “Infantil” está firmada por Gonzalo, “perteneciendo” al saxofonista Yosvany Terry “Looking In Retrospective”, “This Is It” y “Hipside”, y al contrabajista Matt Brewer la misteriosa “Aspiring To Normalcy”. “Peace” de Horace Silver y “Preludio Corto No. 2 For Piano (Tu Amor Era Falso)” del cubano Alejandro García Caturla completan el listado. La formación que vino a Valladolid, salvo el batería Ernesto Simpson, fue la que grabó el disco, y en la actuación el pianista dedicó a los músicos unas palabras, diciendo que era un álbum que recoge capacidad y fantasía compositiva. Madurez, contención y visión de conjunto pueden ser términos que definan también este trabajo, en el que las ejecuciones acrobáticas de Rubalcaba no tienen la presencia de antaño. Perspectiva, expresividad y libertad para un jazz con ecos neoyorkinos, intrincado e imaginativo, que se mueve con naturalidad por distintos terrenos y no puede circunscribirse a una etiqueta como la del latin jazz.

Durante el concierto, Rubalcaba y sus socios elaboraron un discurso musical sin fisuras a través de composiciones largas. Dotado de una técnica asombrosa y una gran sensibilidad, el pianista enfocó y dirigió la actuación sin sobresalir demasiado del conjunto siendo, como hemos insinuado al hablar de ‘Avatar’, un elemento más dentro del esquema. Desde algo más de una década, tiene una mayor propensión hacia la melodía que hacia la complejidad rítmica, y su estilo tampoco olvidó la meticulosidad, la velocidad con las teclas y el pulso preciso. Combinó destreza con emotividad y templanza, y determinadas travesuras próximas al free, quiebros y filigranas con pinceladas concisas, todo ello con mucha seguridad. Le respaldaba en esta aventura un grupo que se articulaba y amoldaba en función del desarrollo y el momento de la pieza. La sección de vientos contaba con Yosvany Terry, un saxofonista que soplaba con sentimiento y decisión y dejó valiosas aportaciones, especialmente con el saxo soprano. Asimismo Terry se movió en ciertas ocasiones dentro de unos registros más libres, sin perder las coordenadas. El trompetista

Mike Rodriguez tenía una sonoridad limpia, luminosa e incisiva, manteniendo la comunicación y colaborando en la formación de texturas. El contrabajista Matt Brewer contribuyó al espacio común manejando su instrumento con plasticidad, defendiendo bien su parcela y apoyando en varios pasajes la construcción de un poderoso groove, siendo secundando por Ernesto Simpson, batería contundente, ágil y creativo, que no escondía sus influencias latinas.

La sencilla pero eficaz pantalla de fondo, que podía tener como motivo unos círculos concéntricos con colores que giraban o una iluminación más neutra, acompañaba bien la evolución de una música densa, de diferentes ambientes, logradas transiciones y brillantes cambios de ritmo, llevada a cabo con soltura y elegancia. En los bises, Gonzalo tuvo el protagonismo con dos interpretaciones en solitario,

sobresaliendo la adaptación de “El Manisero”, en la que dio una de sus mayores exhibiciones aquella noche, al revisar de manera poliédrica este clásico de la música cubana.Antes de esto, en el momento de presentar a los músicos y agradecer al público y a los promotores, manifestó sus ganas de volver a Valladolid: “Ojala se repita pronto y en verano”. Deseamos que así sea.

Texto: Borja Sánchez Mayoral

Fotos: Antonio Macías

Modern Drummer Oct 1, 2007 Vic Stevens on Ignacio Berroa

VIC STEVENS ON IGNACIO BERROA

Gonzalo Rubalcaba‘s Paseo is one of those albums that has greatness written all over it. Drumming icon/legend Ignacio Berroa lays it down so thick, it’s impossible not to become absorbed with his groove. The lock between Berroa and bassist Jose Armando Gola is quite special. Ignacio makes the tunes sound so relaxed that you almost forget how deep they really are. This whole album is a tremendous statement to groovin’ hard within the complexities of well-written tunes.

Sunday Birmingham (England) March 16th, 2008

Play: GONZALO RUBALCABA Avatar (Blue Note)

Byline: JD

It’s always good to see an established artist putting something back into the music that has inspired success. For his 13th Blue Note outing, acclaimed Cuban piano virtuoso Gonzalo Rubalcaba combines his classical training and innovative jazz technique with a hastily assembled band of New York novices, and the results are breathtaking. Young gun saxman Yosvany Terry, trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Marcus Gilmore had never performed together before they started to improvise with Rubalcaba in the studio but the instrumental dialogues that followed are both joyous and lyrical. A breath of fresh air.

PALME D’OR, Music Academy Paris, France

Art Critics Association Japan

Review of “Fé” by John Savoth

Review of “Fé” By John Savoth

I first started listening to Gonzalo quite late in the game when I purchase his album Avatar back in 2008. His sound is a challenging mix of afro Cuban styling with the obvious historical influences of Monk, Powell, and even the bebop sensibility of Parker, although the final creation is far from the traditional structure of bebop jazz. It’s his sound and it’s beautiful, passionate, intelligent and filled with the mystery and authenticity of his Cuban heritage. With this background, I approached his latest solo endeavor, Fé (Faith) recently released on his own independent label, 5Passion Productions. I’ve been drawn to solo piano for some time now, particularly Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau, Vijay Iyer, Andrew Hill and Bill Evans among others, and this disc is a wonderful addition. Players often speak of a master’s voice in the jazz medium, particularly with horn players; that is, those players who have honed their craft to the level that their sound is uniquely theirs (Coltrane, Rollins, Gordon, etc.) but there are certain pianists whose styles have developed to the level that you know it’s them as soon as they touch the keys. Gonzalo fits right into this distinguished group. I recommend, in particular, the beautiful ballad Jean and his two takes on Blue in Green.

The man sure can play-The Independent (London, England) August 29, 1995 Author: JOHN LYTTLE

In a jazz age still overshadowed by the Edmund Hillary-like heroes of the Fifties and Sixties, who scaled the peaks in mohair suits, with a cigarette in their mouths and a monkey on their backs, it’s rather alarming to come across a contemporary musician whose sheer genius announces itself from the off. But the Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba – who plays Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall on Saturday – demonstrated on his debut Blue Note album, Live at Montreux, in 1991, exactly the kind of brilliance that is not supposed to happen any more. With Charlie Haden on double-bass and Paul Motian on drums, he clearly had good taste on his side already, but from the opening notes of the first track’s reworking of Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t”, lights flashed, bells rang and the elusive jazz jackpot’s coins poured out in a flood. He began with a full-tilt vamp on the chords, Afro-Cuban rhythms driving manic repetitions, until Monk’s lop-sided theme emerged amid a welter of virtuoso effects, a double-time salsa chorus leading into a second ascent on the tune until it slowed down to a dirge before the appropriately Monkian plinky-plonk ending. His unaccompanied solo on the self-composed third track was even better, a playful cadenza that mixed the history of post-war jazz piano styles with a ferocious Cuban lilt. And then he played a ballad so tenderly it almost made you weep. He was 27 and suddenly the most exciting pianist in the world. Unfortunately for his career, he was also Cuban. The son of a renowned Havana musician, whose own father was one of Cuba’s most illustrious danzon composers, Rubalcaba entered the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory at the age of eight to be taught by his mother before studying composition at the Arts Institute of Havana. By the time of his Blue Note debut (actually leased to the label by the Japanese subsidiary Something Else, in order to circumvent the US economic blockade of Cuba)Rubalcaba had already recorded a number of albums and toured Europe. Indeed, it was his fate to be “discovered” over and over again, by Dizzy Gillespie, who played with him at Havana’s 1985 jazz festival; by Charlie Haden, at the same festival in 1986, and by the German label Messidor, who released albums by him in 1988 and 1989.

Now a genuine star, with a further four Blue Note albums behind him, Rubalcaba has remained a citizen of Cuba, although he lives in the Dominican Republic in order to practice his profession more easily than Cuba’s isolation allows. When he was invited to New York for a Lincoln Centre concert in 1993, a diplomatic row broke out, with the State Department considering him persona non grata, and exiled musicians like Paquito D’Rivera protesting his presence. He still managed to play, but critics carped that he was either too Cuban or not Cuban enough for the jazz tradition. His Edinburgh solo concert – a British debut – is something of a coup, but he will be back in the autumn for a tour with the classical pianist Katia Labeque.

I interviewed him in Germany, with his responses translated into English by his manager. Technique, which Rubalcaba is alternately praised and cursed for, is, he says, “something to which you don’t just have the key in your pocket, to use at your will. The more you have, the more you need to think about how you will use it, and in my case, I always have a sense of its limits.” His first musical influence was Cuban traditional music, especially the heavily African-flavoured music of the church. “After that,” he says, “was Cuban popular music – also very African – and the music I played in my father’s band. If I have a style of my own, it is because I have been using jazz as a reference while also taking in the Cuban and African background which was itself an important influence to jazz musicians in the US.” Rubalcaba is also a much more varied player than he is credited for – he even does a nifty version of John Lennon’s “Imagine”. The tune, he concedes, was suggested by his manager, but he remains a Fab Four fan, because, he says, he’s in sympathy with “the ideology of the time”. One fondly imagines Fidel himself grooving to Sgt Pepper in a natty camouflaged Beatle-jacket.

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