Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Entrevista al pianista cubano Gonzalo Rubalcaba con motivo de su concierto en el Espacio Cultural CajaCanarias

Gonzalo Rubalcaba – By Philip Klint Thursday, November 24, 2016 at 07:30 AM EST Time Warner Cable Noticias NY1

Jazz di Cuba a Sacile con il quartetto di Rubalcaba Stasera, allo “Zancanaro” di Sacile, il pianista si esibisce insieme a Gola, Hernandez e Hidalgo

Gianfranco Terzoli

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SACILE. Quattro leggende del latin jazz per la prima volta insieme sullo stesso palco. Quello del Teatro Zancanaro, dove stasera alle 21 per “Il Volo del Jazz” si esibirà un quartetto che promette un’eruzione di suoni latini. Non per niente si chiama Volcan il progetto dei cubani Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Armando Gola e Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez e del portoricano Giovanni Hidalgo, musicisti che singolarmente hanno suonato con gente come Santana, Paul Simon e Art Blakey e che messi insieme hanno pubblicato oltre 150 album.

Quattro personalità così possono coabitare perché – riferisce Rubalcaba – hanno capito la necessità e l’importanza della convivenza: ci guadagna la musica e quindi lo spirito. «La nostra – dice il pianista, quindici nomination e due vittorie ai Grammy – è una band formata da amici e compagni di una carriera lunga quasi 30 anni. Nell’84 ho chiamato Hernandez (batterista vincitore di cinque Grammy, uno per “Supernatural” di Santana) perché mi aiutasse a dar vita, insieme ad altri giovani talenti, all’idea di una band che aggiungesse qualcosa alla già ricca scena musicale cubana di allora. Io e Hidalgo (percussionista vincitore di due Grammy di cui uno con Arturo Sandoval e al fianco di Dizzy Gillespie e Art Blakey) ci siamo conosciuti al Festival di Varadero: avevamo solo 17 anni e da allora abbiamo collaborato a vari concerti e progetti discografici: tra questi mi sta particolarmente a cuore “Antiguo”. Gola (bassista chen vanta due Grammy e ha suonato pure con Jennifer Lopez) fa parte di una generazione giunta negli Stati Uniti a metà anni ’90 ed è stato nel mio secondo “Quartetto cubano”. Tre anni fa – prosegue – durante una registrazione a Miami con Stefan Glass, Hidalgo ci propose un progetto comune. Propose anche il nome, “Volcan”. Con esso cerchiamo di creare un repertorio che non serva solo per mostrare le nostre capacità individuali, ma tenti pure di riconoscere il lavoro di grandi artisti dell’emisfero americano».

Volcan esplora in veste inedita composizioni originali di Rubalcaba e rivisita classici di Dizzy Gillespie, Chuco Valdès e dei brasiliani João Bosco e Chico Buarque. «Il processo di evoluzione e crescita della musica brasiliana e cubana – rileva – è stato parallelo. Entrambe le culture hanno elementi simili (religiosi, ritmici, letterari) oltre a una reciproca ammirazione. Abbracciamo questa musica con profondo rispetto». «A Sacile – riprende – interpreteremo contenuti del primo cd, versioni di alcuni classici cubani e un pezzo risalente al mio primo periodo compositivo (1984) con il gruppo “Proyecto”. Il rapporto col nostro paese è ottimo. «Dall’89 ho avuto il privilegio di suonare in Italia praticamente in ogni tour europeo. Il pubblico italiano, oltre che estremamente sensibile e gentile, è molto vario».

 Rubalcaba ha suonato con Al Di Meola e Charlie Haden. «L’interesse per la musica, per sviluppare idee e mantenerle al più alto livello – spiega – rende possibile l’unione e l’apprendimento, l’amicizia, l’impegno emozionale e professionale»..

Gianfranco Terzoli

“Diversidad” latinoamericana en Latin Jazz

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Gonzalo Rubalcaba foto by Rene Hernandez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Por Alicia Rinaldi BUENOS AIRES, 26 (ANSA) –

América Latina vive una “etapa de redefinición de la pianística”, todavía “muy controlada por códigos europeos”, pero en los jóvenes existe una creación “sin temor” a sumar la “esencia popular”, afirmó el reconocido músico cubano Gonzalo Rubalcaba.
    El compositor y virtuoso exponente del Latin Jazz, de 52 años, dialogó con ANSA, antes de protagonizar el “bello reto” de tocar temas de su último disco, “Fe”, en el Festival Internacional Piano Piano, con intérpretes de diferentes géneros, en curso en el Centro Cultural Néstor Kirchner.
    “Es necesario este tipo de encuentros porque por años lo que se ha buscado es establecer muros entre géneros más que puentes: que si lo popular, lo folclórico o lo clásico. Y esto es una posibilidad real de vincular artistas de diferentes nacionalidades y generaciones con una historia contrastante”, afirmó Rubalcaba.
    Galardonado con dos Grammy por sus discos Supernova (2002) y Solo (2006), sostuvo que Latinoamérica vive “una etapa de redefinición de la pianística, todavía muy controlada por códigos estéticos europeos”. Algo que “no es negativo” en sí mismo, pero resaltó que en la actualidad “hay artistas que entendieron que es importante desarrollar otras formas de expresión musical”.
    Rubalcaba se formó en un ambiente de músicos desde niño, en su casa de La Habana, donde estudió en el Conservatorio Manuel Saumell, percusión en el Amadeo Roldán y composición en el Instituto Superior de Arte.
    En su increíble carrera, a los 17 años Dizzie Gillespie lo escuchó al piano y lo invitó a tocar, a los 20 realizaba giras por Europa con la Orquesta Aragón cuando conoció a Charlie Haden, con quien compartió -más tarde- discos, giras y mucha experiencia.
    El músico recordó que en su época de formación el piano era considerado dentro de las “llamadas carreras largas”, con 12 años de estudio de autores europeos y muy poco margen para los cubanos.
    En la actualidad, las “nuevas generaciones ven que hay otras formas y otros códigos a involucrar en la composición, sin temor a trabajar con la esencia popular de cada país”, destacó.
    Rubalcaba, docente hace un año en la estatal Universidad de Miami, criticó la “falta de difusión de lo que no pertenece al mundo uniformado” de la música en los medios de comunicación.
    Para el artista, es parte de un “problema a nivel mundial en las escuelas” y es que existe “poco empuje en los estudiantes a que encuentren su camino” propio.
    El camino es “estudiar y conocer” a los grandes, como Jhon Coltrane, Charlie Parker o Gillespie, “pero tener las herramientas para creer en los que podemos revolucionar nosotros mismos, sin temor a no ser aceptados y a que el camino sea muy largo”, explicó.
    Se trata de “luchar contra una ola inmensa” e “inducir al niño que no debe darle miedo el sabor de lograr algo que se diferencie, con intereses propios, emocionales, culturales; no tiene precio, yo apuesto por eso”, enfatizó. En esa misma línea, “los latinoamericanos le aportaron mucha diversidad al jazz”, sostiene Rubalcaba. El músico que eligió el Latin Jazz “ha entendido la importancia de respetar el lenguaje de la tradición jazzística pero abrazar constantemente su tradición y establecido una comunión donde conviven las cosas de manera normal”, sintetizó.

Clarin.com Extra Show Música 23/07/15 Gonzalo Rubalcaba “Busco ser irreverente”

El pianista cubano, que ganó dos Grammy y se presenta hoy en Buenos Aires, cuenta su modo de evitar el cliché.

Virtuoso-anos-artista-vive-Unidos_CLAIMA20150723_0006_28

 Virtuoso. A los 52 años, el artista vive en los Estados Unidos.

Un pianista de exuberante virtuosismo y que escapa de convencionalismos musicales. Gonzalo Rubalcaba, cubano, nacido en mayo de 1963, es uno de los pianistas esenciales en ese proceso de maridaje entre el jazz y otros géneros. Estudió piano clásico y composición, y a los 14 años comenzó en la Orquesta Aragón su carrera como músico profesional. Su relación con el trompetista Dizzy Gillespie, con quien grabó un disco, en 1986, le permitió ser reconocido como uno de los jóvenes leones del jazz.

Ganó dos Grammy en el rubro de Latin Jazz; el primero, por Supernova, en 2002 y, el segundo por Solo, en 2006. Sus discos Flying Colors, con el saxofonista Joe Lovano, y Nocturno, con el contrabajista Charlie Haden lo mostraron como un pianista pleno de renovadas ideas y de una modernidad inusualmente cálida.

En su segunda visita a Buenos Aires, Rubalcaba, hoy hará un concierto de piano solo, basado en su último disco, Fe, un tributo a Alejandro García Caturla y Amadeo Roldán, dos compositores cubanos pioneros en la música contemporánea de la isla (ver “Hoy”). “La música que interpretaré tiene como sentido el de abrazar este legado, casi olvidado, del que surge un lenguaje formado por un pianismo cubano con proyección universal”, señala este músico, que vive actualmente en Florida, en los Estados Unidos.

Durante la charla telefónica, Rubalcaba explica que su propuesta es de una permanente movilidad. “Tres de las composiciones están dedicadas a mis hijos, Joan, Joao y Yolanda, en las cuales trato de explicar los rasgos de cada uno de ellos y cómo los percibo, pero tengo en cuenta que crecen y eso provoca que estos temas también intenten crecer con ellos”.

Para el pianista, hablar de música es una forma de especular desde lo poético. “Es difícil categorizar; lo que uno expone con la música es lo que vive, desde lo emocional, lo intelectual y lo social. Diría que en los últimos quince años se ha manifestado en mí un constante explorar sonidos y climas que tienen relación con músicos de diferentes latitudes, artistas que tienen morfologías distintas, concepciones personales y forman parte de un movimiento histórico particular”, detalla.

Sobre su música, dice que “tiene una actitud movediza, dinámica y Fe no escapa a este constante explorar. Es un acercamiento diferente, solitario y un reto, que comienza con la elección del repertorio hasta conseguir una línea conceptual, una forma de conexión entre las composiciones, una unidad, pues de lo contrario se puede convertir en una letanía”.

¿No teme las distancias que puede haber entre “Con alma”, de Gillespie y “Blue In Green”, de Evans?
Ambas son composiciones importantes para mí y me permitieron mostrar la amplitud que tienen. Son temas que tienen puertas y ventanas para abrir y poder desarrollar mi propia lectura de estos clásicos. Son composiciones que proponen distintas formas de aproximarse y eso trato de dejar en evidencia en el escenario.

El músico también hace especial hincapié en el cuidado permanente que tiene para eludir los clichés. “El ser humano desde siempre tiende a entenderse con la gravedad, y entonces buscamos acomodarnos y así sentirnos cómodos. Mi música evita el lugar común, en el que es tan fácil caer y tan costoso salirse luego. No quiero decir con esto que me rebelo a estas situaciones, sino que busco ser irreverente”, explica el artista que, además, probablemente haga en su concierto algo de la música del compositor y pianista Ernesto Lecuona. “Antes tengo que llegar a Buenos Aires y tomar contacto con la ciudad y sólo ahí sabré exactamente que tocaré en el escenario”, concluye.

(Hoy, 21 horas en el CCK, Sarmiento 151, Sala La Ballena Azul).

GONZALO RUBALCABA Gonzalo Rubalcaba: ‘Todo aprendizaje lo canalizo en la música’

EVA HAMBACH / AFP/GETTY IMAGES
ERWIN PÉREZ

ESPECIAL/EL NUEVO HERALD

Gonzalo Rubalcaba hará un paréntesis en su ajetreada agenda internacional de conciertos para presentarse mañana sábado en el sur de Florida. El célebre pianista cubano estará junto a los otros músicos que componen el Gonzalo Rubalcaba Trío: Marcus Gilmore y Matt Brewer. En el espectáculo –que se celebra en el Miniaci Performing Arts Center– ejecutará piezas de su más reciente disco, Century XXI, además de otras joyas de su repertorio, que se extiende por más de tres décadas.

Rubalcaba nació el 27 de mayo de 1963, en La Habana. Tuvo la mejor preparación académica y despuntó profesionalmente en los años 1980, apadrinado, entre otros, por el legendario Dizzy Gillespie. En 1991 emigró a República Dominicana; seis años después recaló en estas costas, más precisamente en la localidad de Coral Springs, donde vive junto a su esposa, María, y sus tres hijos, Joao, Joan y Yolanda. A fines del año pasado, el artista visitó Cuba para ofrecer dos conciertos y una clase magistral.

Todo esto lo repasa en la siguiente conversación con El Nuevo Herald.

¿Cómo te sientes en esta etapa de tu carrera?

Maduro, cómodo por la manera en que digo las cosas; me siento tranquilo, confiado; no solo con la ejecución de la música si no con mi faceta de compositor también.

¿Qué tan importante es esa faceta?

Muy importante porque de lo contrario te pasas toda la vida siguiendo o imitando a otras voces. Hay que admirar lo que hacen los demás, pero también hay que saber escuchar para poder tener un sello propio.

¿Cuáles son tus mayores influencias?

Mi primer maestro, Pedro Hernández; Dizzy Gillespie, que me colocó en el mapa mundial de la música; y [el bajista] Charlie Haden.

¿El trabajo como músico es un asunto individual o de equipo?

Siempre es de equipo. En el orden espiritual hay algo más que nos acompaña, nos ilumina, y en lo terrenal hay mucha gente que colabora en el proceso musical.

¿El prestigio y el éxito no te hacen perder contacto con lo terrenal?

Los artistas somos muy dados a ser el centro y perdemos el hábito de escuchar, pero a mí no me ocurre eso, gracias a mi familia, que me hace ver el otro lado de las cosas.

¿Musicalmente te quedan cosas por aprender?

Sí. Constantemente la vida te somete a situaciones alegres, tristes o desagradables y todo ese aprendizaje lo canalizo en la música.

¿Dónde se origina la fuerte tradición musical de Cuba?

Creo que simplemente le “tocó” a Cuba ese privilegio, aunque también ha ayudado el hecho de que siempre fue un lugar de paso para gente de distintas latitudes que dejó su esencia.

¿Perteneces al mundo del jazz?

Agradezco estar vinculado a la historia jazzística, pero me siento libre en lo estilístico; lo que más me interesa es la excelencia, la calidad.

¿Te gusta escuchar tus discos?

Apenas los termino sí, pero a los dos meses empiezo a encontrarles defectos.

¿Por qué importa grabar un disco?

Es una necesidad creativa; los grabo cuando aglutino una cantidad de piezas que pueda ordenar para decir un discurso.

¿Cuál es el discurso de ‘Century XXI’?

Estamos en un siglo que hereda del anterior una serie de nombres, de personajes, de mentes, de formas de pensamiento, en el orden musical, que nos sirven para conformar un estilo que debemos expandir.

¿Te molesta que tu trabajo no sea de consumo masivo?

Pienso que lo que hago es lo que hago; y que tratar de complacer y comprometerme en áreas que quizá no sé hacer bien sería un error, además de un fraude conmigo mismo y con el público.

¿Cómo fue la experiencia de volver a tocar en Cuba?

Emocionante, porque fui muy bien recibido, lo cual me hizo pensar que, pese a todo, la gente de allá ha buscado la forma de no perder el contacto con sus hijos, sus creadores, sus profesionales que se han marchado.

¿Qué le dirías a un sector del exilio que se puede molestar por tu viaje?

Que lo hago porque quizá pueda estimular a las nuevas generaciones, como a mí me pasó de joven, en el año 1977, cuando asistí en La Habana a un festival de cantantes norteamericanos y vi la libertad que proyectaban, lo cual me marcó para siempre. •

Rubalcaba en concierto, sábado, 8 p.m., Rose and Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center, 3100 Ray Ferraro Jr Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, (954) 462-0222 o www.SouthFloridaJazz.org

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Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Video- Entrevistado por Erwin Pérez

Gonzalo Rubalcaba- “The Making of XXI Century” Available April 2012

The Pile (#3) — Faith, by Gonzalo Rubalcaba, who turns 48 today (Part 1)

The Pile (#3) — Faith, by Gonzalo Rubalcaba, who turns 48 today (Part 1)

Ted Panken

Saw that master pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba turns 48 today, and listened to his 2010 self-produced solo CD,  Faith, which arrived recently.  I think it’s a masterwork, as was his 2006 recital, Solo [Blue Note], on which he similarly assumed sole responsibility for time, tempo, key, timbre and tuning on a lyric meditation on the classical and folkloric canons of Cuba and the points at which they intersect with jazz.

“Not many people know the 20th century Cuban composers,” Rubalcaba told me for a Downbeat piece I wrote at the time.  “European culture had a strong presence in Cuba in the ‘30s and ‘40s, and these composers—Amadeo Roldan and Alejandro Garcia Cartula, for example—used tools from the European school to tell their own stories, their own roots and traditions, on the level that we know as classical music.”

As an example, Rubalcaba analyzed Roldan’s “Canción de Cuna del Niño Negro (Lullaby For a Black Child),” which appears on Solo. “The melody is not exactly a folk melody, but Roldan’s vision of how a folk melody sounds, and he placed it in a form that mirrors Europe,” he said. “There is the ambiance of the Impressionist composers. But the score shows us that the left hand, the ostinato, does not work as a French or Russian composer would do it. It’s against the beat, as in popular Cuban music—as we dance, as we accent and phrase our speech. My challenge was to combine the worlds of interpretation—my vision of that music—and improvisation.”

Solo feels highly curated. Faith — which includes one Caturla piece [“Preludio Corto #2 (Tu amor era Falso)”], as well as six Rubalcaba originals, two improvisations based on Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” and two interpretations apiece of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma” and Bill Evans’ “Blue In Green” — does not. That the session took four days to record contradicts the aural impression that Rubalcaba turned the studio into a faux living room in which he just sat down and let the invention flow.  On both dates, he gets to essences, finding the most lyrical pathways, playing with restraint and keenly focused intention. The word “poet” gets tossed around a little too much in reference to pianists of a lyric bent, but it’s a descriptor entirely suited to Rubalcaba.

It’s a real evolution from the pre-40 phase of his career, when Rubalcaba wore his chops on his sleeve. He was  an innovator of Cuban timba (he was also the musical director for the salsero Isaac Delgado), and, while still in Cuba tried to synthesize Cuban and jazz vocabularies within a highly caffeinated, improv-oriented ensemble context. He emigrated to the Dominican Republic in 1992, then to Miami in 1996 (he became a U.S. citizen several years ago). By ’96, he was an internationally known jazz musician, known for various bravura soloist-over-all-star-rhythm section albums with the likes of bassists Charlie Haden, Ron Carter, and John Patitucci and drummers Jack DeJohnette and Paul Motian.

“At the beginning, I was a bit rushed, and pushed by the record company,” Rubalcaba remarked to me. “I was still in the process of feeling comfortable and safe. It took time to be part of the musical reality of the States, and meanwhile I was supposed to do something. “

As is evident on the subsequent Blue Note trio disks Inner Voyage [1998] andSuper Nova [2002], both propelled by Cuban master  drummer Ignacio Berroa (and on a highly creative late ’90s duo recording with Joe Lovano),  Rubalcaba worked hard to assimilate the nuances of jazz syntax into his presentation. He learned, as  Ron Carter put it in 2006, “not to feel so responsible for all the ideas—all the good nights and bad nights—and to let the chips fall where they may. He understands some things are out of his control, which frees him to be even more creative.”

Rubalcaba stated in 2006 that his ability to coalesce different styles and languages “is very typical in Latin-American musicians. They move around the world, assimilating everything possible to make them powerful artists. And the way they think they are powerful is working in different areas. For example, a lot of writers work in musicology, in novels, in social studies. In music, we see the same. It’s not just Cubans. Astor Piazzolla left Argentina looking to develop his career. He established himself in Paris, and when he returned to Argentina he was criticized because nobody understood exactly what he was doing with the tango. But the tango we hear today is 100% Piazzolla.”

This predisposition for polylingualism extends to the spoken word as well; Rubalcaba has become quite comfortable expressing himself in English, as was apparent on a pair of interviews that I conducted with him on WKCR in 2004 (during a run at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola with the New Cuban Quartet) and in 2006 (during a combined solo and trio — bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Jeff Watts — week at the Jazz Standard).  I’ll post them separately, seriatem.

 

Gonzalo Rubalcaba (Part 2) — Interview, WKCR, December 5, 2004 Ted Pankin

Gonzalo Rubalcaba (Part 2) — Interview, WKCR, December 5, 2004

Ted Pankin

[Gonzalo was performing with the New Cuban Quartet at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola]

TP:   What is the New Cuban Quartet? You state in the notes (toPaseo [Blue Note]), more or less, that at this point you feel free to revisit and reinterpret music that you have performed in the past as well as bringing out new music. The timeline seems to proceed past Irakere and Los Van Van up through Timba. What has brought you to this point?

GONZALO:   Exactly what you said. I used to work with the Cuban Quartet about 6 or 7 years, from 1990 to 1996 and ‘97. I produced a few records with them –AntiguaLive In USAFour and Twenty [all on Blue Note via Toshiba-EMI]. There was a moment in November ‘96 that I moved to the United States. I was living in the Dominican Republic until that time, from 1990 to 1996. I moved to Florida with my family. Also I think that the Cuban Quartet at that time was a little bit tired. We were kind of tired musically. I’m not talking about the human side, but musically. We spent a long time doing the music together, and I have great memories with the Cuban Quartet, but it actually was the right time to quit, to say, “Okay, let’s finish and see if we can do something else different” – each one. There was the moment where Julio Barretto, the drummer, decided to live in Switzerland, and begin his career as a soloist. The bass player went to Paris and the trumpet player is still in Cuba. I moved to the United States.

Right now, I was looking around at what I did in the past, and I found out that the music at that time still presents a lot of places and spaces to recompose, to reinterpret, to take into consideration as a new point, to develop a new music and a new group as the music is still alive – at least for me.

TP:   In the intervening time from 1996 to the present, you’ve done many things. You’ve elaborated your own personal study of the piano trio, refined your touch and use of space and so on. You’ve done two bolero projects with Charlie Haden, and the broader audience can see your lyric side. And you’ve also done some very cutting-edge work, such as on Antigua. So a lot of experience is going into this current reexamination of your older work.

GONZALO:   It’s a good point about the boleros with Charlie Haden. It’s not only that I could show people my lyrical side. It’s the lyric side of the Cuban music more than my lyric side. It’s the lyric side of the Latin American music, the music of Mexico, music from Cuba, from South America. It’s the side that is not really popular in the world about Latin music. When people think about Cuban music, automatically they think about music to dance, happy music or whatever. Light music. But there are very important composers in Cuba who made a wonderful career making ballads, boleros, songs with incredibly rich harmonies and melodies. Charlie was looking for a different kind of recording, a different kind of music, not with American standards or American ballads. He was looking for something else, totally different. I sent him a CD with a lot of stuff like that, boleros, and he fell in love with it. We decided to do that first recording,Nocturne [Verve]. The second one, which is now the second part, is I’d say an extension with the music from Mexico, in that 90% was music from Mexico. Probably that was the moment when people found out that I could play another musical idiom, musical language, not only what the people used to hear me do onAntigua, on the trumpet stuff, or fire…

TP:   Or long extemporaneous improvisations with the trio.

GONZALO:   Yeah. But I think everything helped. Everything helped me to arrive at this point where I am right now. The New Cuban Quartet gives me the opportunity to put all the experience together. A lot of ballads, which I think is the most important. We have a space to improvise with total freedom and at the same time to develop forms and structures, not the typical structure that we can see in the Cuban standard music or even the American standard music. At the same time, we keep codes coming from  our folklore,  from our tradition, and also the tradition of the fusion that we’ve seen not only in the last 20 or 30 years, but from the end of the 19th century. Composers like Cervantes, Amadeo Roldan, Leo Brouwer, Caturla, Ernesto Leuconia, Aaron Copland, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, all of them were involved in this fusion to combine the music from Cuba, the music from… Not the music, but some codes, signs, from the music that we were doing in Cuba at that time with the American tradition. So this is basically what we are doing right now.

I see the record as a single piece with different movements, different chapters, all  connected in some way. The difficult thing and the beautiful thing about that is to find a different personality for each tune, a different character. It’s a challenge not only to play the music, but to compose the music. That was the point when I was looking back at the music we did on Antigua specifically. That was the motivation. That was the impulse that I found to say, “Okay, I should go again to the Cuban Quartet, new people, but trying to extend what I was doing at that time.” I think the good thing right now is that I’m a little older and I have a little bit more knowledge. I am more conscious about what I want.

TP:   A few words about the members of the New Cuban Quartet. You’re in your early forties, Ignacio Berroa is in his early fifties at this point, and the other two seem to be early thirties, if that.

GONZALO:   No, they are less. Armando [Gola] is 24 or 25, and [Felipe] Lamoglia I think is already 30.

TP:   Tell me about them.

GONZALO:   All of them are Cuban. Lamoglia was living in Brazil for a while, so he had an opportunity to share musical experience with important people there – Hermeto Pascoal and all of them. Armando was living in Columbia for three or four years, and then he moved to the United States, and is moving between Miami and New York. A lot of people know about Ignacio, who has been for 25 years already living in the U.S., making collaborations with a lot of different great musicians and different projects – McCoy Tyner, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Danilo Perez, Michel Camilo. He’s been working as part of my projects for the last 7 or 8 years.

TP:   He’s the type of drummer who, if you closed your eyes, you’d think of somebody in a muscle shirt, sweating profusely, and when you look at him, it looks as though he’s barely moving a muscle, he hardly sweats, and all these rhythms are coming out of him. In your music, who is setting up the rhythms? Are the rhythms coming from your pen? Are you collaboratng with him in terms his execution? You yourself have played quite a bit of drums and worked in your share of dance bands in Cuba. How do you set them up?

GONZALO:   It is everything together. I used to write everything, and I used to suggest what I want here and there, at that moment. Probably there’s a lot of drummers who hate me because of that. This is music that needs to be rehearsed. When we have rehearsal time, I always spend much time, 5-6 hours, to present the conception to the ensemble, but also second, trying to find the spaces, the moment where they have to add their experience. I want to see both things clearly—my vision of the music that I wrote and their vision, so that  have a space to create, to add whatever they want, always in connection with the musical conception for each chair.

TP:   This would differ in concept, I’d think, from your recent trio projects.

GONZALO:  That’s true.

TP:   Why are the two different? Is the one your compositional voice and the other your improvisational voice? Or do they blend in various ways?

GONZALO:   Well, the point is that we find here two…I don’t know if I should say two sides, but it is the same person. The difference here is that when we play trio, 80% of the music that we play is not my music. It is music from American composers, Cuban composers, whatever. And it’s music I try to interpret, or at least to develop. In this case, it’s my music in every aspect – the form, the rhythm, the idiom, everything. It’s not music that can be treated with a rigid attitude. Right now the good thing is that they feel total freedom to play this music. But it takes time. Because it is not music where you play the melody and then you improvise. No. The introduction has an instrument, and then the melody is not only the melody, but it’s the melody with another section which is the development of the melody, and there’s a second part where we are going to somewhere as a result of the first part, and then we come back and there is an improvisation section to conclude the piece. It is a trip to find an end in connection with the whole piece…

I mean, it is a complex way to make music, but it is a rich way to make music, too. What I want is not to present a little melody and a little piece of music where the people finally make improvisations, and that’s it. This is more in the classical conception to the music. That is a music that contains all our traditions, all our experience as a people, with the jazz language; all our training as classical musicians. Because we have to say that, as a Cuban, the musical education in Cuba is 100% classical, so there’s not a jazz school there or a salsa school or whatever. You go to a musical school and what you receive is a classical training. When you finish the school, you can do whatever you want. You can go in any direction you want. But the academics is totally classical.

TP:   So as a kid, you were  also playing outside of school, and playing folkloric music and dance music.

GONZALO:   Yes. But it was a trouble.

TP:   You had trouble for that.

GONZALO:   Oh, definitely. Because at that time, the classical school didn’t want you to play anything else but classical music. If they discovered that you were involved in Afro-Cuban folklore or music to dance or whatever, they looked at you very bad. They figured you were not serious. And they were totally wrong, because this is a country where the Afro-Cuban music, the popular music is really strong. It’s what made Cuba what it is. At the same time, it was good to have both sides, because we are able now to play all this tradition and a very serious classical form or structure. It’s like you said at the beginning that there’s a lot of reference that was coming from Los Van Van, from Irakere, from many other very popular orchestras in Cuba that used to make music to dance. But the way that we built this tradition is not to dance; it’s to listen. So that’s the difference. And we are able to do that because we already get the tools to create that kind of form, that kind of space, to put all these traditions together, but in a different conception, a different direction.

TP:   That’s a tremendous challenge.

GONZALO:   It is.

TP:   It’s compressing a lot of information. So I suppose some of the challenge is to avoid having it be overly dense.

GONZALO:   But I have to say something. This is not a musical language which says that we are the first ones.  Fortunately, a lot of people at the beginning of the 20th century (I already mentioned a few names, like Alejandro Garcia Caturla, Amadeo Roldan, Leo Brouwer, among others) already were doing that, more with the symphony orchestra and more with chamber music – but it was exactly the same conception. They absorbed all the music that we used to see in the religious community, the spiritual music, the Afro-Cuban codes, and they put all that information in the service of the symphonic music. Unfortunately, not many people know about this moment of the Cuban music.

TP:   Since you entered the international playing field  in 1989-90, and your first records came out with Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Jack DeJohnette, and so on… Some Cubans had come here before you, like Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo Sandoval, Ignacio Berroa. Many have come subsequently, and are making an impact on the international jazz scene—not just from Cuba, but from around the Caribbean and South America. Their presence has changed the sound of what jazz is. By that I mean, a 7/4, a 9/4, an 11/4 time signature is not exotic; it’s part of what young musicians presume they have to play. How do you observe the changes in the scene since you emerged?

GONZALO:   Well, the good thing about Cuban music and jazz music is that both musics are open all the time to accept anything that could make them rich. That’s the reason why we have seen these great collaborations between North Americans and people from Latin America. There’s no need to force anything.  It is about attitude. The attitude of the jazz conception of doing music and the Cuban conception of doing music. There’s a totally open mind. You find freedom all the time in the form, in the harmonies, in the rhythm. We cannot say which part has been more influenced by it, the American part or the Cuban part. That’s not the point. The point is that we are arriving to something new, to something totally fresh, to something that we can see a real organization of the harmonic changes, a real organization of the structures to the music, a real organization of the musical textures, a new attitude in the American musicians to absorb, to learn what we are offering. Same with us.

TP:   For you, what were the biggest challenges in absorbing jazz syntax? You do have a trio where you’re dealing with the Songbook, with the music of Dizzy Gillespie. Were there serious challenges, things you had to work on?

GONZALO:   There were, but the biggest challenge was to find your own voice. There are too many examples of great voices, of great documents in the history of this music, and it’s really hard, after you absorb it all, after you  listen to a lot of music, after you think that you learned about this document, to find your own way, your own voice. A voice in a way that the people can recognize you. That’s the big challenge, and I think this is a big challenge not just for me – for everyone.

TP:   To deal with Afro-Cuban music properly, American musicians have to learn the codes.

GONZALO:   Yes. That’s true.

TP:   There’s a lot to learn. You can’t just go in and blow on it.

GONZALO:   Mmm-hmm.  I know what you’re talking about, and this is very delicate. In the past, I feel many American musicians were looking at Cuban music in a  superficial way—only the face, the exterior part, but not INTO the deep part of the Cuban music. The reason why I decided to push a lot to do recordings likeNocturne or Land of the Sun with Charlie, or an album that I did a long time ago, Mi Gran Pasion, which is a danzon album, or Antigua, which contains a lot of the depth of the history of Afro-Cuban music and all the complexity of that culture, is to motivate the people here, and not only here but around the world, about all the sides of our music, our history. That’s the difference, the attitude in relation to each culture.

But I think we are at the point now where the American musicians and people around the world are more conscious about these points we are discussing right now. They know that the Salsa is there. They know that the music from Cuba and from Latin America to dance is there. But they start to accept that we can make music to make the people think, too.

 

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