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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.


Nick DeRiso’s Half-Year List of Top Albums for 2012, Blues and Jazz Edition-By Nick Deriso-Excerpt

Nick DeRiso’s Half-Year List of Top Albums for 2012, Blues and Jazz Edition

GONZALO RUBALCABA – XXI CENTURY (JAZZ): Rubalcaba reaffirms his place as one of the most important Afro-Cuban jazz figures to have emerged in the 1990s. He still possesses both the expected ebullience and the stirring power so long associated with Latin players — but also (and this is what makes him so special) the crystalline patience, and a thoughtful finesse, so few have managed.

Jazz Life Japan- XXI Century

Something Else Reviews : Gonzalo Rubalcaba – XXI Century (2012) By Nick DeRiso

Gonzalo Rubalcaba – XXI Century (2012) By Nick DeRiso

A gutsy blend of contemplative Evans/Tristano-informed piano excursions and these grease-popping Cuban jams, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s XXI Century takes us on a journey across time and cultures. Along the way, Rubalcaba breaks down barrier after barrier — the ones standing between our concepts of what fits, and what doesn’t and the ones that keep our worlds separate.

XXI Century, due on May 29, 2012 from Rubalcaba’s 5Passion imprint, follows   2011′s Fe’ — but has little in common with that solo meditation on home, faith and family. Working instead with a few trusted compatriots, Rubalcaba firmly fixes his gaze outward. Too, where that album walked a finely drawn line between classical and jazz, here the pianist leaps headlong into the raucous cadences of his ancestral homeland.

Four of this expansive double-CD set’s 10 songs are Rubalcaba originals, beginning with the album-opening “Nueva Cubana” — a daring blending of hypnotic polyrhythms and nifty interplay between Rubalcaba and a talented band featuring bassist Matt Brewer (this percolating counterpoint throughout), drummer Marcus Gilmore and percussionist Pedro “Pedtrito” Martinez. “Oshun,” moves with an episodic determination, even as Rubalcaba switches to synthesizer, adding another atmospheric layer.

Guest guitarist Lionel Loueke sits in for the coiled funk workout “Fifty,” and his lyrical original “Alafia.” The brilliantly constructed “Son XXI,” from bimodal composer Enrique Ubieta, spills outward from a rumba pattern into these series of eddying percussive patterns — even as Rubalcaba tip toes by on the piano.


There’s more to this that rhythm vehicles, though, as Rubalcaba stretches out into the rippling zen-like unknowns of “Moor,” the Paul Bley composition. Brewer’s “Anthem,” a ruminative rubato, gives everyone a chance to play around the silences. Elsewhere, Lennie Tristano’s “Lennie’s Pennies” (which swings like crazy) and Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered” (lithe, gorgeous) are both given sensitive, complete readings of more than 10 minutes a piece — a rare opportunity made real over the course of this two-disc release.

Given a chance to stretch out (after all, he’s the label boss, right?), Rubalcaba reaffirms his place as one of the most important Afro-Cuban jazz figures to have emerged in the 1990s. He still possesses both the expected ebullience and the stirring power so long associated with Latin players — but also (and this is what makes him so special) the crystalline patience, and a thoughtful finesse, so few have managed.


Up & Down Beats: In the Mood for Jazz – By Mishar – 19 May, 2012 – NewStraitsTimes


Read Entire Article


Gonzalo Rubalcaba

IF it had been up to me, Gonzalo Rubalcaba would be highlighting tonight’s jazz festival, given his enormous gifts and facility with expanding the jazz vocabulary, in the manner in which Hiromi is attempting to do so.

Since he is almost near impossible to get, we’ll have to settle with his latest album, where he sets himself up in an incendiary ensemble, featuring Marcus Gilmore (drums), Matt Brewer (bass) and the redoubtable Lionel Loueke (guitar).

The Cuban-based landscape and Rubalcaba’s unfettered freedom  roam stylistically and creatively, and it shows in this humdinger.

The whole length and breadth of this album is roiling with virtuosic nods to jazz greats of the past but is also very circumspect in handling incredible passages.

Check out the expert interrogation of Moor, a Paul Bley-Gary Peacock composition, where Rubalcaba dives into an adventure in known and unknown territories.

Rubalcaba honours Bill Evans (Time Remembered) and Lennie Tristano (Lennie’s Pennies), both edging in harmonic sophistication.

Rubalcaba still indulges in limited flash and dazzle, if that’s what you require of him because of what he has done in previous albums, but XXI Century will grow exponentially in your mind as jazz of infinite credulity.



All About Jazz Gonzalo Rubalcaba: XXI Century (2012)


If Gonzalo Rubalcaba were a major league pitcher, he would be a seasoned veteran with the knowledge that to be effective he would have to be the master of multiple pitches. Gone are his rookie days when he could throw nothing but fastballs to get outs.

Same for Gonzalo Rubalcaba, jazz pianist. Twenty-five years ago he wowed audiences with his powerful attack and blinding speed. As his sound has matured, he has begun communicating with more subtlety, throwing audiences more off-speed and graceful pitches.

XXI Century is the second release from his own imprint, and like the previous solo outing,Fe…’Faith (5 Passion, 2011), he continues to reveal his expanding repertoire. This double disc plays off Cuban themes, percussive fusion, funk, and introspective improvisation.

Well chosen guests supplement his working trio of bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Marcus Gilmore. Rubalcaba’s opening “Nueva Cubana” traverses a percussive attack to etch itself upon the electricity of Gary Galimidi’s guitar. The sound is not so much a fusion of rock and Cuban jazz as it is a mutual path. Same with the funk laid down on “Fifty.” Lionel Loueke’s Afropop guitar bumps into Gilmore’s groove, and Rubalcaba’s Cuban vibe ties West Africa to North America and the Caribbean.

With the help of percussionist Pedro “Pedrito” Martinez, the groove stays firmly rooted in Cuba. “Son XXI” highlights the pianist’s percussive attack, matching the clavé with the keyboard—a dare to sit still.

While the pyrotechnics are present, the pianist also shows another side, covering Lennie Tristano’s “Lennie Pennies” as Keith Jarrett might eschewing rhythmic emotion for a mathematical precision. His take on Paul Bley’s “Moore” and Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered” expose a very thoughtful side, where the pianist opens compositions up to lighter swing.

Rubalcaba has mastered a backdoor strike here, not to keep the listeners off balance but to display his full array of talents.

Track Listing: CD1: Nueva Cubana; Time Remembered; Fifty; Anthem; Oshun; CD2: Moore; Son XXI; Alafia; Lennie’s Pennies; Oshun (short version).

Personnel: Gonzalo Rubalcaba: piano, Yamaha CFX, keyboards; Matt Brewer: acoustic double bass, arco bass, electric bass; Marcus Gilmore: drums; Ignacio Berroa: drums; Pedro “Pedrito” Martinez: percussion, voice; Lionel Leouke: guitar, voice; Gary Galimidi: electric guitar.



Gonzalo Rubalcaba XXI Century By Rachel Swan

Gonzalo Rubalcaba

XXI Century

By Rachel Swan

Track lists alone should tell you something about the omnivorous tastes of pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, the Cuban jazz pianist whose style is steeped both in Afro-Latin traditions and in the Blue Note records he consumed while growing up. And the song choices on his latest offering are particularly classy: four originals, a few not-so-obvious standards, and a few culled from his friends’ discographies. Among the ten are “Alafia,” by West African guitarist and frequent collaborator Lionel Loueke (who sings in a high warble over his own guitar solo), and a lean, percussive version of “Lennie’s Pennie’s,” a bebop piece by pianist Lennie Tristano.

Though he’s characterized as a Latin composer, Rubalcaba tends toward modern jazz — meaning he likes pungent harmonies and beats that swing. He’ll sometimes evoke a form without sticking to it exactly, as he does with the hybrid cha-cha beat that serves as scaffolding for Enrique Ubieta’s “Son XXI.” At other times, he’ll reinterpret a tune by sacrificing its sentiment, as he does on the Tristano cover. Rubalcaba’s version of the Bill Evans ballad “Time Remembered,” for instance, is a reverent reflection on (and departure from) its source material. The groove and chord voicings seem a little crisper and lighter than Evans would have liked, but the late master’s ghost hovers everywhere in Rubalcaba’s drawn-out introduction.

If anything, Rubalcaba proves that it’s possible to treat jazz as a pastiche art form and still retain all the sensitivity and musical depth that we associate with bebop of the Fifties and Sixties. He came up in a generation that defined itself largely on multiculturalism, and nowhere is that more apparent than on XXI Century. It’s an album that lurches forward, while gathering influences from all sides. (5Passion)


The Urban Flux – Gonzalo Rubalcaba – XXI CENTURY – 5Passion, 2012 by Rob Young


The Urban Flux – Gonzalo Rubalcaba – XXI CENTURY – 5Passion, 2012 by Rob Young

Unknown by most of us at the time, the unanticipated arrival of soon to be Grammy Award winning pianist Gonzalo Julio Gonzalez Fonseca nativeCuban landed on the shores of US some twenty-five years ago. Since then of course pianist, improviser and songwriter recorded dozens of jazz recordings to his credit. With his latest project, the multi-facet virtuoso embarks on an unequalled journey with enchanting lyricism in the spirit of innovation he unleashes the exhilarating “XXI Century.” On this outing, his compositions swells from the womb of his beloved Afro-Cuban heritage and merges these voicings within the body of ten sumptuous and ambitious songs to pay tribute to two piano icons Bill Evans and Lennie Tristanto gives me reason to believe this is probably his best recording to date.

Gonzalo is accompanied by five extraordinary musicians featuring bassistMatt Brewer, drummer Marcus Gilmore, and percussionist Pedro “Pedtrito”Martinez with special guest and native Cuban Ignacio Berrora on drums also esteemed guitarist Lionel Loueke supply the gifts, talent and precision on Gonzalo’s latest project on 5Passion.

Once I listen, and re-focused my thoughts the opening lines and phrases on “Nueva Cabana” the melodies grew on me with its intoning utterances shaped by its unbridled complexity. With optimism underscored with Gonzalo’s uncanny approach to telling his version of story with unmatched intricacies of modern jazz and improvisation unlike his colleagues. In fact, his melodically exquisite tenor expressed on “Time Remembered” was originally pened by piano master Bill Evans. Gonzalo’s delicate voice echoes the sentiments of Evans immediately. For the moment, like a gust of wind he unveils quite voicings through shaded octaves of lush and transparent tones with brilliance.

The ensemble sets a new standard in modern jazz with the hypnotic “Fifty.” Pen by Rubalcaba this infectious groove features non-other than international guitar sensation Lionel Loueke. The band digs deep to release some seriously tasty beats, riffs and pulsating rhythms that are simply off the rector-scale sonically.

Known for his intuitive playing, vision and acclaimed writing skills the soulful Gonzalo and company irresistible interplay are explore on “Anthem and Oshun.” The stretch their preverbal voices by communicating with flurries of transcending melodies, rhythms and brogue of unpredictable tones are manifested from the center outward on these limpid compositions.

Disc II rolls out with a Paul Bley composition titled “Moor.” With much anticipation, Gonzalo accompanied by the fearless ensemble cease the opportunity to intercede with their collective voices and cry out with a symphony of abstract and improvisation squawks gain ground and allows space for the art of swing to intervene and flush out any unknown obscurities.
“Son XXI” written by bimodal composer Enrique Ubieta enters through the gate of stories without words in samba chant with a parade of percussive and rhythmically challenging tones exceed the boundaries yet the tempo remains atoned to Afro-Cuban rumba musings without missing a beat.

Guitarist Lionel Loueke pens the lyrical “Alagia.” Very few guitarists are expressive as Loueke as soloist and composer, his timbre on this song oozes with alluring harmonics ordained by his imaginative artistry. Like most songs here, the focal point is clearly measured by the sobering temperature of this culture retains the wealth of its expressive tonality that’s fresh, stimulating and intriguing.

The ubiquitous pearls of “Lennie’s Pennies” follows, meanwhile the ensemble gains momentum led by Gonzalo’s virtuosity on piano and complex arrangement. Picture this, his fingers dance with singular, unhurried scales and shifting bop sequences shape this ten-plus minute gem to reveal a stunning piece of artistry.

Rubalcaba revisits “Oshun (the short version)” to conclude this picturesque collection of music. Even after the first episode of “Oshun,” you can’t help but be liberated by this gem knowing it is snapshot of his multi-culture lineage where percussion, rhythm and extensive drumming are the centerpiece on this “folkloric” canvas sprayed with every aspect of his Cuban heritage is totally unique listening experience.

With “XXI Century,” pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba consummate voice progresses through the conduit of his expansive vision, maturity and unyielding passion clearly gives him an advantage as pianist, composer and producer. This album documents a healthy balance of modern jazz, Latin and accessible improvisation for jazz enthusiast to quench their ongoing thirst and savor the superior compositions and masterful musicianship showcased here is simply unparalleled.

Highly Recommend by Rob YoungUrban Flux Media | Review

Meet the Band:
Gonzalo Rubalcaba – piano
Pedro “Pedtrito” Martinez – percussion
Matt Brewer –bass
Marcus GilmoreIgnacio Berrora (special appearance) – drums
Lionel Loueke – guitar [guest performance]

Track ListingDisc I

Track Listing: Disc II


Produced by Gonzalo Rubalcaba – 5 Passion | Visit, for more information, Bio, and Tour Dates.


Cuban Piano Virtuoso Gonzalo Rubalcaba Shines on Ambitious 2-CD Set, XXI Century

Cuban Piano Virtuoso Gonzalo Rubalcaba Shines on Ambitious 2-CD Set, XXI Century


For Immediate Release:
Street Date: May 29th, 2012
In a career that has spanned 25 years and nearly 30 releases, including a string of acclaimed recordings for the prestigious Blue Note label, Cuban piano virtuoso Gonzalo Rubalcaba has awed critics and fans alike with his prodigious technique and depth of soul as a composer. On XXI Century, his second recording on his 5Passion imprint, Rubalcaba lets his Afro-Cuban roots bubble to the top while also paying tribute to two piano heroes in Bill Evans and Lennie Tristanto.
Accompanied by such stellar sidemen as bassist Matt Brewer, drummer Marcus Gilmore and percussionist Pedro “Pedtrito” Martinez, Gonzalo alternates between percolating tumbao-fuled jams, the occasional funk workout and crystalline introspection on this potent two-CD set. Guest guitarist Lionel Loueke appears on the funk throwdown “Fifty” and also on his own hypnotic composition “Alafia.” Rubalcaba’s fellow Havana native, drummer and longtime collaborator Ignacio Berrora makes a special guest appearance alongside second drummer Gilmore on a spirited rendition of the Paul Bley tune “Moor.”
While Gonzalo and crew exhibit near-telepathic interplay on more subdued fare like Evans’ gorgeous “Time Remembered,” Brewer’s rubato “Anthem” and Bley’s zen-like swinger “Moor,” the energy level spikes on Rubalcaba originals like “Nueva Cubana,” “Oshun” and “Son XXI,” all of which expertly blend Cuban folkloric elements with daring jazz improvisation. Martinez also lends his stirring vocals to the folkloric “Oshun,” which conjures up an authentic Santeria ritual with Rubalcaba’s subtle synth seasonings on top. And he stretches out in a jazzy vein on an irrepressibly swinging interpretation of Tristano’s “Lennie’s Pennies,” revealing yet another aspect of his multi-cultural virtuosity. (Marcus Gilmore’s drum solo on this lone boppish offering shows why he may have inherited more than just a bit of his impressive skills from his grandfather, drumming legend Roy Haynes).
This latest outing by Gonzalo, who is regarded as one of the most important figures to emerge from Afro-Cuban jazz in the ’90s, is the next step in his ongoing evolution as an artist. And while he has never compromised his artistic integrity on any of his previous outings over the years, he is even more liberated to truly pursue his muse on his own 5Passion imprint. Few labels would have given him the green light to record a 2-CD set. But under the auspices of 5Passion, the seasoned veteran is free to follow his creative inclinations with impunity on XXI Century. Rubalcaba has come a long way from his early days as a pyrotechnic marvel (as heard on his early outings like his 1990 Blue Note debut, Discovery: Live at Montreux and the following year’s The Blessing. This latest outing, recorded when he was 49, may be the pianist’s deepest and most fully-realized recording to date.
For More Information on Gonzalo Rubalcaba go to:
Press Contact:
Two for the Show Media/Chris DiGirolamo
Phone: (631) 298 -7823/ Email:


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