Archive for the ‘Critical Acclaim’ Category

Supernova of Sound by Susan Pineda for Adelante

Fire and energy reunite in an explosion that expands light and silences sound …for an instant. melodic glimmers emanate from this nebula with just one star: Gonzalo Rubalcaba is the master of his own cosmos, although he belongs to a galaxy of great musical constellations. The musician whose father, Guillermo Rubalcaba, helped introduce the world to the cha-cha-cha, and whose grandfather, Jacobo Gonzalez Rubalcaba, composed the famous”El Cadete (The Cadet),” has not let the light of his rising comet go dim. His most recent production, Supernova; won the Latin Grammy for the best Latin jazz album of 2002. His collaboration with Charlie Haden in Nocturne, which also won a Grammy this year, is praiseworthy as well. With classic training, this  Cuban pianist and composer took an early turn toward jazz, and from that moment, his career has continued to ascend.

“Supernova” is another step forward ,” said Rubalcaba in a recent telephone interview with Adelante. Because without moving forward, he added, “it’s like standing still in time.  In the twenty years that Rubalcaba has created his sound, he has expanded the musical firmament. This piano virtuoso continues to sound the enduringly rich depths of the music of his fatherland. “Cuban music continues to need formal spaces, and not in a way that’s cliche,” he observed. Convinced that music is neither created nor invented, but restructured and evolved, Rubalcaba took the hits of yesteryear – the beloved “Alma Mia (My soul)” of Maria Grever, the unforgettable “El Manicero (The Peanut Vendor)” and the unequaled “EI Cadete,” – and sent them into a fresh orbit. His sparkle· poesn’t hide behind the incandescence of these classic stars, however, but proceeds from a unique source with its own light resulting·in a synergy between the genius of the past and the present. “The challenge of taking things on again that have already passed their peak, is to seek.a reason for keeping them alive,” he explained.  This reason, which Rubalcaba has managed to balance with a precise dexterity, dwells in the symbiosis between the knowledge of yesterday a the exploration of tomorrow. To revolve around the richness of Cuban and Latin American rhythms. and return to a classical axis, forms Rubalcaba’s universal style. And that’s because it is a minimalist musical expression given that the essence of minimalism is not the scarcity of details and decorations, but the abundance of space. Rubalcaba provides this space, enough to ponder and to set afloat in the periphery of our consciousness. The whisper and the explosion of the keys exquisitely move one toward the insomnia of the subconscious. Columbia will form part of this exploration when Rubalcaba lights up the spirits, stands time still and explodes in a carnival of melody on Dec. 5, in an event organized by the “We Always Swing” Jazz Series in an annual fundraising concert dedicated to the late Dr. Carlos Perez-Mesa, a tireless collaborator with the series. “All the places where one finds oneself contain a mystery, Rubalcaba observed, with respect to his imminent visit to Columbia. “One never knows what will happen.” Meanwhile, Rubalcaba’s phosphorescence will continue to live as long as this vital star continues to rise with each new day. “May the music awaken, just as I awaken every day,” he concluded

Rubalcaba finds the tears in the piano- Boston Globe

By Richard  Dyer

Globe Staff

No musical attraction of the weekend drew a more distinguished audience than the Cuban jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba,

who appeared at the Regattabar with bassist Ron Carter. Among the interested listeners on various nights were jazz historian and musical polymath Gunther Schuller, pianists Andrew Rangell, Russell Sherman, and a host of Sherman’s students; Christopher Lydon, pianophile and host of WBHR’s “The Connection”; Pops conductor laureate John Williams; and BSO music director Seiji Ozawa. This listener will leave praise and analysis of Rubalcaba’s jazz’ invention to better-qualified commentators (including Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Haden) – he is fully aware that the admiration of people from the world of classical music is the kiss of death to people active in or interested in jazz. But it is nevertheless necessary to report that Rubalcaba stands in the company of the great pianists active today in any genre of music-making. Rubalcaba’s numerous recordings document dazzling speed, accuracy, alacrity of attack, and variety of touch – “it has to be the product,” Sherman observes, “of thousands upon thousands of hours practicing the exercises of Czemy and Hanon.” Saturday night at the Regattabar we heard a little of that virtuosity – some octaves, repeated notes, trills, and keyboard-spanning passagework that would convey as much in Liszt or  Chopin as they did in Rubalcaba’s jazz playing. His fleshy fingers have to work to produce a harsh, driving sound, but he can create one when he wants to; he also boasts a singing legato that he creates with his touch, not with the pedal- he employs finger substitution even more than an organist would.

Saturday’s quite in-drawing set with Carter also revealed  another quality, something unique in this listener’s experience of pianists. There is a quality in singing as rare as it is highly prized – “les larmes dans la voix,” the French call it, “tears in the voice.” Claudia Muzio had it, and the young Pavarotti, and, perhaps above all others, Callas, in the second act of “Traviata” 0r the final scene of “Norma.” It is not a quality that one ever expected to hear from a piano or a pianist, but one heard it,  felt it re-peatedly in Rubalcaba’s playing as it delivered its message from heart to heart.

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


(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)


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


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

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