Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

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.


Gonzala Rubalcaba (Part 3) — WKCR, June 29, 2006

Gonzala Rubalcaba (Part 3) — WKCR, June 29, 2006

Ted Panken

[Gonzalo was playing at the Jazz Standard with Matt Brewer and Jeff Waits, after two nights performing solo, and a few days after performing three piano duos with Herbie Hancock at Carnegie Hall.  Solo [Blue Note] had just come out.]

TP:   In the liner notes to Solo, you write, “For a long time, people at every event have asked me, ‘When will you do a solo CD?’ Today this work is already a memory for me, resulting from the many hours of listening, observing, evaluating, criticizing, and reevaluating. I have come to the conclusion that although this is a solo album, I have never been more accompanied. My history, nostalgia, memories, affection, faith, and the multitude of the unseen companions of solitude, also from the profusion of signs and sounds coming to me also from these otherwise silent colleagues. I speak in these terms, because when I theorize over music and art in general, I feel the need to go beyond the limitations and restrictions of speech in describing the significance and life of the artist, the artistic process, the act of creation, and its product as it actually exists in the music. When I thought of an organized the music of this disk, I felt the necessity to create an album of secrets, letters and notes and photos, something like an aural diary. Everything has been openly stated in the most classic way. But more importantly, it is an album of intuition and courage, where the important messages are openly stated, but then echoed by murmurs, whispers and suggestion.”

So it has been a long time coming. And if someone had not heard a Gonzalo Rubalcaba record since, let’s say, 1995, they might be surprised at how much space and how much silence and how much restraint is embodied in your playing on Solo. I don’t know if that’s a question or not. But talk to me about the process of concretely preparing to do this date.

GONZALO:   I want to believe that right now I have so much music in my mind than before, just because I’ve accumulated a lot of reference, confrontations, stores, stories, memories. And I cannot put everything at the same time without a real and great organization. So I have to find the right space and form to translate all those memories, and give them the importance that each one has. So that obligated me to create kind of a performance where I had to be very careful in the way that I transmit it. Technically, musically, and in terms of spirituality, I think that this is one of the best moments in my career, where I feel very relaxed. I don’t know how to name it. But I feel very comfortable, very well-trained to do that—especially this record. It took me a long time to do it—partly because there’s a stipulation in my contract that I do a solo record at this point,  following the other records that I was supposed to do.  I appreciate that now, because I think there was not a better moment to do that.  I had now a better vision of what should be a solo record, taking a few factors into consideration. The Cuban tradition. My classical training. My relationship with the jazz idiom. The references coming from different kinds of players—classical players, jazz players, folk players, popular music. And composers from different moments of Cuban history, especially those composers of the 20th century that not many people know about, who were very compromised with the idea of creating a Cuban music not under the patterns that we heard in the music of Lecuona or in the music of the 19th century, but matching with the contemporary music coming from Europe, coming from America, but at the same time very authentically Cuban.

TP:   The composers you’re referring to are mostly early 20th century composers.

GONZALO:   Yes. We are talking about Amadeo Roldan, Alejandro Garcia Caturla… I’m speaking about composers that are part of the record, and others that are not part of the record. Leo Brouwer.  Among others. So that was a challenge for me, because I was supposed to do a record where it’s not 100% or even 90% improvisation, but where you have to create an interpretation of that music. The challenge was to prepare similarly to what a classical player has to do, and combine both worlds—the interpretation, my vision of that music, and at the same time the improvisation, and, on the other hand, my original compositions.

TP:   You’ve said that as a young player you didn’t  have access to the music by the Cuban composers you’re referring to, mainly because of the politics of the time, the way  ideology affected pedagogy and the creative process.  There’s an NPR show that aired last Sunday that’s up on the Internet in which you go into some detail. You said that to do this music, you basically had to deal with scores; it wasn’t possible to hear much of it. How does that function for you?

GONZALO:   What happened is that the program of the classical school in Cuba takes too much time and space talking about European tradition. They bring you  all the information about the different periods of classical music coming from Europe, and you know all about baroque, classicism, romantic, impressionism, avant-garde—all of them. It’s just at the end of the curriculum where they put you in contact a little bit with the Cuban composers, with the Cuban tradition in terms of Classical music. Which is not enough. So if you want to become a composer, you run the risk of being too much influenced by the European tradition, and  not doing the right thing, not putting your roots, putting your tradition to use  in the right way.  Some of the people who used to be part of my department had no knowledge about the Cuban music. They had no knowledge about the traditions…

TP:   You mean the folkloric traditions.

GONZALO:   Exactly. I had an advantage to be part of a large family with a very large tradition, very focused and very related with the Cuban history and the most popular Cuban musical styles. That gave me the opportunity to be in the middle of the essence of the Cuban music, but that was not the reality all the time. So it wasn’t until a few years ago when, thanks to a few people, I got those music parts coming from those composers, and I could see the way that they wrote the music, the way that they conceived the music, the vision of their music, and I could work with that. Not when I was in the school. I always said that was a big mistake, not having that information and that relationship with that music before, when we were part of the school.

TP:   Go into a little detail about your family. We played your grandfather’s composition. Who was he, and which bands did he play with?

GONZALO:   We’re talking about the beginning of the 20th century. So in the ‘20s, the ‘30s…

TP:   Is he from Havana himself?

GONZALO:   No. From Pinar del Rio, which is the western part of the island. He created his own school in this city and this town, because he thought there were a lot of talented people there without the possibility of going to a private school. So he helped them. He created his own band. He was a conductor also of the military band. But he trained young people. He gave them all the access to learn about how to read music, how to write music, and also how to play. He played some of the wind instruments, the brass section, like trombone and trumpet. But his main job was as a conductor.

So he created a big family, and he was a teacher in all his family. He taught my father, he taught all my uncles…

TP:   This is a tradition in Cuba, isn’t it. Cachao comes from that kind of family. Yosvany Terry comes from that type of family. Chucho Valdes. And there are many others.

GONZALO:   Exactly. That’s right. He became a very important reference in the music at that time, not only as a musician but as a professor and  a person that preserved many of the memories of the Cuban music coming from the 19th century. He also wrote some danzons like this one, “La Cadete Constitutional.” I think he wrote a little book about how to read music. So he was working in different directions—as a composer, as a professor, player, conductor. We give thanks to him to be part of that family and be part of that heritage.

TP:   Your father was an important part of the popular music culture of Cuba in the ‘40s and ‘50s. I’ve read that the cha-cha-cha dance comes from his band or was his idea.

GONZALO:   He was part of one of the most important charangas, which is the name that they give to those ensembles that used to play cha-cha-cha and so on. It was the Enrique Morin orchestra. So he became a piano player of this band in the ‘50s, and he was there for about ten years, and then he moved to another very old charanga that specialized in danzon. He became a piano player in this band, and at the end he became the director of this band, and he has been the director of this band until now. He collaborated with different people—with Arcaño, Barbarito Diaz… I know that many of those names mean nothing to many people here. But we’re talking about musicians that define the Cuban music in different styles. He is still working. He is still touring around. He has been part of those later ensembles, like the Afro-Cuban All-Stars, all those bands very well known now in America and Europe and around the world.

TP:   You played in his band as a teenager while you were in the conservatory, studying the European canon. So you would be playing in the conservatory by day, studying your Chopin and Liszt and Brahms and Beethoven, and at night you’d be in the clubs playing drums…or keyboards and drums.

GONZALO:   Yes. My father created a family band with my two brothers and myself (I’m the youngest one), and I played drums in that band. Also a few more friends from the neighborhood who were interested to do music…

TP:   Which neighborhood, by the way?

GONZALO:   The Centro Havana. I was born there. I remember since I was 6 years old, even before, being part of that group. So when I was 9 years old, that was the right time to get into the school. But until that moment, my first reference as a player was being part of that group with my father and my brothers and people from the neighborhood. I had no idea how to read music. I did everything by ear. That drum was a gift, coming from my mother and my father. When I got to 6 years, they asked me what I want, and I said, ‘I want a drum.” It was a difficult situation for them, because it was not easy to find an instrument at that time in Cuba. So we found somebody else, in a very far place… He used to do a very rustic drum! That was my first drum.

TP:   It was a conga?

GONZALO:   No, it was a drum.

TP:   A drum that you beat.

GONZALO:   Exactly. You have no idea how it looks.

TP:   Funky.

GONZALO:   Exactly. But I used to play also some Afro-Cuban percussion instruments, like the timbales, congas, bongos, maraccas. So I went into the music through the percussion.

TP:   So the core of your musical birth is through the drums, not the piano.

GONZALO:   The drums. The piano…it’s too much to say that it was an accident, because it’s not really. But I have to say that when I was of age to apply for a place in the classical school, they disapproved me. They said that I was not rhythmically able to play music.

TP:   What did they mean by that?

GONZALO:   No rhythm sense. That was their argument.

TP:   Did they mean that you didn’t understand the European legato…

GONZALO:   They used to do that apparently simple test where you had to reproduce what they sing and what they clap and things like that. And at the end, they decided that I didn’t pass. So my father and one of my brothers came to the school, and they asked for a meeting with the principal, and they refused the result of the test, and they wanted them to repeat that in front of them. So they did it, and I passed it. Part of the bureaucratic thing that is too long to explain; it doesn’t matter.

The next step was which instrument.  I was looking to be part of the percussion department, and they said, “no, you don’t have the right age; we have for you piano or violin.” That was a big trouble for me. I said, “I don’t like any of that music.” So my Mom was the one that made me decide about the piano. She said, “Piano is a great instrument that will help you in the future to compose, to write music, to have a different view about how to do music. Even if you decide not to become a piano player, it will help you, so you should do that, and we will see in the future if they can move you to the percussion department.” So I said, “Okay, I want to make you happy, and that’s it.” So I did it. The first year was kind of weird and difficult to me. One of the elements is that I didn’t get well-related with the teacher, so they asked to see if they could change the teacher for the second year, and that was the solution. I was very lucky with that woman who put me on the track to love the instrument, and then develop myself as a piano player. When I was in 5th or 6th year, the principal (it was a different principal already)  asked me if I still wanted to be part of the percussion department, and I said, “Yes, but I don’t want to leave the piano.” So they gave me the opportunity to do both things at the same time.

TP:   How does your percussion background filter into the way your piano playing?

GONZALO:   It’s the need to expose myself not only as a piano player but to expose my music as an ensemble. When I am playing the piano, I am not thinking about the piano as a single instrument. I try to put different levels of music and dynamics and texture and message at the same time with that instrument, using pedals, using different kinds of touch, holding some section of the instrument, and doing everything I can to make that music and the result of that music richer. That’s the only way. And the piano provides me that possibility more than any other instrument, because you can play that game with an instrument, getting different kinds of textures and holding the sound here, and playing around here, and using the piano as a percussion instrument but also as a melodic instrument. You can go for a different kind of dynamic. That’s the way that I conceive how to play that instrument.

TP:   Early in your career, you played and recorded with Jack DeJohnette, Paul Motian, Charlie Haden, John Patitucci, Ron Carter. More recently you’ve worked and recorded with Ignacio Berroa, the Cuban drummer who played with Dizzy Gillespie, who plays idiomatic Cuban rhythms and jazz rhythms with idiomatic precision as well. How does the drummer’s style filter into the overall conception of what you play? Would it be possible for you to play the type of music you played on Super Nova, let’s say, without a Cuban drummer? Or a drummer intimate with the codes of Cuban music.

GONZALO:   A good question. I think that music has different doors, and that is the important thing for me, that the music gives me the possibility to go with the same music in different directions, depending who is part of the band and the vision of the musicians as part of the band playing that music. Of course, this is music that contains a lot of Cuban codes, Afro-Cuban elements, and it will help a lot if the people involved are related with that.  It doesn’t mean that they have to do that in a very orthodox way. That’s totally the opposite of what I’m looking for. I’m looking to give the musicians the opportunity to be related with those codes and at the same time for them to apply what they know over those codes.

TP:   Now, you yourself were raised in those codes, because you played drums, and not only did you play them in popular music and dances before large groups of people, but also santeria and religious ceremonies.


TP:   So those codes also contain for you a narrative. If you hear a rhythm there’s a certain storyline or state of mind or state of being attached to it.

GONZALO:   Mmm-hmm. One good example of that is this record, Antiguo, which is based 100% on all the Yoruba culture. I took some of the chants, rhythms, and I speculated a lot with them, using a kind of electronic ensemble with synthesizers, computers, sequencing, but at the same time live musicians playing different kinds of drums, percussion, brass section, singers. I’m sure that music can be played by a symphony orchestra—it’s very possible. We should add to the symphony orchestra some instruments that are not part of the regular structure of the symphony. But it’s a music that was created with that vision of a big-big-big ensemble. So that music would absorb any kind of musician, any kind of player. This is what I’m looking for—a music without limitations, with a very clear starting point, but at the same time with a totally free road to work with.

TP:   Talk about how  your relationship with technique has evolved over the years.

GONZALO:   I know there’s a lot of points of view about technique and how to apply technique and how to use it, and also many prejudices about it. I want to state an example. Even Thelonious Monk, when you heard the latest Thelonious Monk recordings, you can hear Thelonious Monk clean, more clean, more specific about what he wanted to say, how he wanted to say that. He was not going around, but was going exactly to the point where he wanted to go. It was a technique in relation with the music he was doing; not in relation to something else coming from nowhere, but with the music he wanted to do. This is exactly what every musician should do. I mean, depending on the way you think. The music forces you to find different ways technically to express that, and to express that without confusion, clearly. This is probably the process that I have led to.

TP:   Did you study various jazz pianists deeply after emerging on the scene?

GONZALO:   I listened to a lot of them. But I wasn’t the typical student that looks into the book, looking for a transcription or something like that. I never tried to memorize any solo or any phrase or any style, because I thought it was kind of a limitation for me. I would say in the same way you read a book, you cannot memorize phrase by phrase. You memorize the content, the essence of a book. This is what I was looking for in the records. But I hate to go and try to play the transcription and play in the same way that everybody…

TP:   Conceptually, though, who were some of the pianists you paid attention to between 1989 and 1996?

GONZALO:   I can say names that I know influenced me a lot. One of them is Bill Evans. Keith Jarrett. Even before that, Chick and Herbie were two names important as a reference to me, not only as a player but as composers. Art Tatum at the very beginning of my career, along with Oscar Peterson. I remembered seeing Erroll Garner for the first time on a TV show that they broadcast in Cuba—just one piece. I really loved what I saw. Then I wasn’t able to see many people and to hear many of the jazz players. But I had a lot of references coming from Europe in terms of classical music, and also from Cuba. The recordings came from Czechoslovakia, from Russia, from Poland, from Bulgaria, and many of the artists were teaching in Cuba. So I had that mix of reference. Obviously at some moment of my life their influence was more present. It takes a long time to find yourself, It takes a long time to find your own way to say things. Especially when you are very ambitious about music, or you are in relation with many different kinds of music, especially the Cuban music that has many sides—and unfortunately, not many people know about how many sides that culture has.

I am very surprised now by the articles that talk about this Solo record; I feel there isn’t enough reference to talk about what I tried to say with those Cuban pieces, especially the classical pieces that I incorporated in that record. There’s an obvious comparison with the European styles, but there’s nothing deep about the form of those pieces, the language of those pieces, the meaning of those pieces, which are very related with our traditions, with our codes, our music. I don’t see that in the reviews. It’s like they pass that over. They say it sounds a little bit like Ravel, or we can see some of the Debussy influence… It could be very possible. Why not? We are talking about more or less the same times. But they don’t go deep into the structure of the piece, the meaning of the piece.  There’s a lot of elements that we could talk about, and we need the right reference.

[Rubalcaba selected “Cancun da Cuna del Nino Negro by Roldan; “Preludio en Conga” by Hilario Gonzalez, and “Homage to Hilario” by Rubalcaba]

TP:   In the program  notes, Gonzalo writes of Hilario Gonzales that he played his music while still in high school “as an antidote to too much Mozart and Beethoven.” You said that reviews of the new album insufficiently discussed your Cuban roots and the intent of the music. A few words about Amadeo Roldan and Hilario Gonzalez, the dynamics of what they did, and how they inspire you.

GONZALO:   We have to say, first of all, that Cuba has been a country that collaborates with many different cultures. A lot of great musicians from different parts of the world live in Cuba, different composers at different moments coming to Cuba to play their music, to teach, to get in relation with composers there, different kinds of emigration from different parts of the world—from China, from Poland, Latin America, South America. So Cuba  has been open all the time to confront a different kind of vision, a different kind of attitude about how to create arts—not only music, but painters, writers… It’s obvious that  the presence of  European culture was very strong for us in Cuba.

The good thing is that Cuban composers, especially in the ‘30s and ‘40s, took consciousness about what to do with those memories, with this tradition, with this influence coming from Europe, and totally transformed the Cuban music into something at the same level of what was happening in the rest of the world in terms of how to construct the music, especially music at that level—the music that we know as classical music. They took the tools from the European school, but they were talking about their stories, their roots, their traditions.

That was a good example, this one that we just heard from Amadeo Roldan. He took that melody, which is not exactly a folk melody, but his vision of how a folk melody sounds, and he put that into  a musical form very similar to the European form. But when we see the score, we see that the left hand and the way that ostinato is working,  isn’t the way that a French composer or Russian composer would do it. It’s totally against the time, against the beat, in the same way we do the popular music, in the same way we dance, and the same way we talk, the accent—the melody works over that. There’s a lot of elements. If we check the music score, we see that there is a very particular way to do the music. We can feel some ambiance coming from the European reference, especially the Impressionist composers. But the melody, the rhythm conception, is totally in relation with the popular Cuban music.

This is what is not there in the comments and the reviews. I feel unhappy, not about the record and not about me, but that people who have access to the record don’t have exactly the right reference when they listen to that music. Why? Because there’s not enough information about that side of the Cuban music, not only in the United States, but around the world. People know a little more now about Cuban popular music of the ‘30s and ‘40s, because of Buena Vista Social Club, Afro-Cubanismo… But there’s still a lot of things to discover about the Cuban music.

TP:   Do you see yourself as a mantle-bearer of the legacy of these composers whom you’re interpreting on records?

GONZALO:   I’m doing that because I like what they did.

TP:   I mean, you yourself as a composer. Is your aesthetic consciously referring…

GONZALO:   Definitely. Those composers, like Amadeo Caturla and Leo Brouwer, Farina, Roberto Valera, and all of them, I would say that it was the first generation to change the way to produce music in Cuba—with very bad luck. Nobody paid attention to what they were doing. Nobody believed in what they were doing. I don’t think they had enough support to promote the music, to promote their ideas, their conception about how to do music. But I think it is in our hands, my generation, myself, the responsibility in some way to talk about that, to revise that, to check that, to say, “Okay, let’s see what is true, what is the real thing about that, and let’s promote that.” I’m doing that, and at the same time I’m choosing what I like. It’s not that I’m blind about it and saying, “Oh, we should sound that because that’s the way to promote it.” No. I’m trying to combine both things, promote that and, at the same time, I choose to play exactly what I feel in connection with my wish, with my need.

TP:  A few words on the jazz you heard as a kid. Chucho Valdes told me that his father, the maestro Bebo Valdes, gave him a systematic pedagogy. He said, “Learn these things in order chronologically,” and he gave him Jelly Roll Morton, he gave him Tatum, he gave him Bud Powell. He did that. Since he lived in Cuba in the ‘50s, he could see musicians playing in Havana, and even play that music with them. You didn’t have that advantage, but you did have your father’s record collection. I’m wondering what it was in that record collection that made you (I’m assuming this) fall in love with jazz or be attracted to jazz at a young age, when it wasn’t part of your immediate environment in Cuba.

GONZALO:   I think it was the space to improvise.

TP:   Not one person, but the space.

GONZALO:   Exactly. That was the first thing that put me in orbit already with that music, and how much importance they gave to the improvisation. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have the space to improvise in the Cuban music. Every popular music, every folk music is based on improvisation, in that spontaneous act. We had to make a balance on the form of jazz as a music, We see that improvisation is very tied to the main part. I mean, it’s as important as a main section of the piece. That’s a little different than our own structure in our music. But that was the point. When I heard for the first time Art Tatum, I remember he had some record of Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie…

TP:   Benny Goodman with Teddy Wilson.

GONZALO:   Exactly. Charlie Parker. Among others. To me, the most relevant at that moment was the improvisation section, and that interchange, exchange, that interaction in between the musicians, how they interact, how they followed each other, and how they had to create another story in relation with the main thing during the improvisation section. It’s like they composed again another piece—connected with the piece, but in distinction to that. It made me be in love already with that music, even when I know that I was not able to understand many things that were happening in there.

TP:   I’m assuming when you say you weren’t able to understand many things that were in there, you’re referring to cultural codes that were hard to crack because of where you were. What were some of those codes, and which did you crack…

GONZALO:   Well, the first question at that time was how they developed this speech. How they arrived at that speech, and how they developed that imagination and that fantasy about the way they play harmonies and the chords, and how the bass player arrived to the conclusion that this was the line that he should do behind the saxophone player’s speech. All those questions were the first curiosity and secret for me. How is that? How do they produce that? What is the sign that gives them the green light to go in this way and to do that? Then with time, I understood that it wasn’t only about musical knowledge, but it was about spirituality, about instinct, about…as a conversation.

So I put together two things, that experience with the experience I had with a very important musician, a Cuban violin player, composer and teacher, Pedro Hernandez, in Cuba. He was part of the Barbarito Diaz Orquesta, he worked with Arcano, he worked with many great musicians in Cuba, and we were able to see him in person over many years because he was a friend of my family. He was the one that taught me how to read music. He said something from the beginning: “You have to read music in the same way that you read the newspaper. You don’t know exactly what the newspaper is going to say tomorrow. But you get it and you start to read.” So you have to read the music in that way, because the music is an idiom, is a language, and you have to have control of that.

Then on the other hand, I had at the end of my career the possibility to be trained by Roberto Valera, another great contemporary Cuban composer. I remember when we would start our lessons, our meetings talking about composition, he asked me, “What are you looking for here in this school?” I said, “I’m looking to learn how to compose.” He said to me, “I cannot teach you how to compose. That’s impossible. The first thing is that you need to say something. You have to feel the need and the necessity to say something. Then you are able to compose. I will give you the tools, the experience, the rules to get a good balance, instrumentation, a good sound, according to the reference we have. But you have to be able to say things in your own way, and I cannot teach you to do that.”

This is what I found also in jazz. Everybody was able to say at the same time their speech and their own voice, and collaborate as a group. That was the thing that really caught me from the beginning when I heard those records.


Un jazzista con fe en la era digital El Lunes 28 de febrero de 2011

Gonzalo Rubalcaba lanzará su próximo disco llamado Faith/Fe de manera independiente, por medio de su propio sello, Sinco-Pasión, el próximo 4 de marzo en Miami, Florida.

Aunque Faith/Fe se lanzó a finales del 2010 en su formato digital, el jazzista desea dar a conocer el disco físico, además de que se siente emocionado de que Sinco-Pasión inicie actividades, tanto con sus propios trabajos, así como con otros jazzistas.

“El formato digital se hace conveniente para el tipo de vida, sobre todo de las ciudades en que se vive muy rápido. Facilita el acceso a un producto”, manifestó el jazzista cubano, aunque destacó que no se debe dejar atrás el disco físico.

“El producto digital pierde la magia de tener el disco en tus manos, de poder leer las hojas del libro, de poseer el arte. Hay una serie de cosas que ya es, aparentemente, del pasado al que yo me niego que desaparezca”.

Debido a que Sinco-Pasión es una disquera independiente, la venta del disco físico será tan sólo por Amazon. Cabe destacar que esta será la primera producción independiente del creador de “Contagio” y “Ellioko”.

Rubalcaba aprovechó para dar a conocer sus ideas sobre las nuevas formas en que se mueve la industria musical: “Estamos viviendo unos tiempos muy confusos con respecto a cómo se vende la obra musical

“Ya se sabe que hay una batalla entre el concepoto tradicional de las grandes compañías y su deseo de permanecer como tal. La facilidad que da la tecnología es reinventar otras formas de vender tu producto”.

Añadió que “tampoco estoy diciendo que desaparezcan las grandes compañías, pero sí tienen que darse cuenta de que estamos viviendo una era diferente”, destacó el músico.

Visita a México

Gonzalo Rubalcaba visitará la ciudad de México en el marco de la Sound Check Xpo, que se realizará en el World Trade Center del 20 al 22 de marzo. Ahí ofrecerá una master class en la que recibirá a jóvenes mexicanos.

“En esos encuentros no solamente se beneficia una parte, sino que se benefician ambas: quien está impartiendo y quien está escuchando”.

Hasta el momento esa será la única presentación del jazzista en México. Sin embargo se presentará a lo largo del año en algunos de los festivales más importantes de jazz en Europa durante el verano.

También destacó que está formando un trío que lo acompañará en dichas presentaciones, pero que no tiene planeada la grabación de un disco próximamente debido a que no tiene prisa por apresura el proceso creativo que conlleva la escritura de cada una de las canciones. .

“No soy dado a hacer discos seguidos porque me interesa crecer con el disco y con los materiales con los que estoy trabajando. Crece el trabajo y también crece uno”.

Rubalcaba inició su carrera en los ochenta, primero con el conjunto cubano llamado Orquesta Aragón, con quienes se presentó en algunos países de África, además de Francia.

Posteriormente formó su propia agrupación llamada Grupo Proyecto que no tuvo ninguna grabación.

Su carrera de solista comenzó en 1987 con la salida de su primer disco titulado Mi gran pasión. Hasta el momento cuenta con 25 producciones discográficas propias y diversas colaboraciones con otros jazzistas.





GONZALO RUBALCABA PIANISTA Porque dos por dos no son cuatro y el orden de los factores altera el resultado

Gonzalo Rubalcaba Pianista PDF


“A la juventud le falta paciencia,amor e interés por saber cómo hemos llegado hasta aquí”

Porque dos por dos no son cuatro y el orden de los factores altera el resultado Sentado delante de su Steinway habla tranquilo, como el que tiene todo bajo control y no se olvida de una isla que baila danzón y que le enseñó a estar alerta a todo lo que se mueve. Le aterra oír que es un grande del piano pero no se para a escucharlo y sigue. Ofreciendo la opción de soñar. Decía el virtuoso que la gente tiene miedo de asistir a un tú y yo con el instrumento, por eso de que puede ser aburrido. Gonzalo Rubalcaba confiesa que muchos solos de piano sí lo son pero es necesario encontrarse a sí mismo y hacer todas las funciones de músico a la vez. Hasta ser un hombre orquesta. El pianista presentará mañana, a las 2ü.3ühoras, en el teatro Colón, un repertorio que bebe de su último disco, “Fe”, que saldrá a la venta antes de que termine el año, y del anterior, “Solo”, con cincuenta originales y clásicos contemporáneos del jazz, junto a compositores de la isla, sus padres adoptivos, de los que nunca se podrá divorciar pero con los que evoluciona porque los lleva en el bolsillo. En este sentido, Rubalcaba dice haber pintado una parábola en la que comenzó siendo un cubano pianista para alcanzar en la curva la definición de pianista cubano y no anclarse, por los antecedentes que fue escuchando y los músicos que le hicieron ver más allá. Por eso, su gama es cada vez más amplia.

Los códigos de interpretación aumentan con los años y él se alía en el escenario con su piano con el objetivo de convencer a los demás, de hacerlos devotos de su discurso. y justo cuando el instrumentista tiene que narrar una historia de acuerdo con la audiencia, Rubalcaba emite señales de humo y la butaca tiene la posibilidad de soñar. Vuela con la historia. Fusión> En esto de la fusión, el cubano no comparte la visión de los puristas que posicionan el género del jazz en un espacio aislado y sin aire que lo oxigene. Cree que es una actitud racista, sobre todo ahora que se puede saber lo que está ocurriendo a tiempo real en todos los lugares del mundo. Demasiada información para obviarla y hay cosas válidas, explica, lo que pasa es que “la juventud busca menos atrás y su circuito está reducido. Les falta paciencia, amor y el interés por saber cómo hemos llegado hasta aqui. De tenerlo, se darían cuenta de que los que están  considerados como el abc del jazz sabían de otras tendencias y tradiciones, lo que hoy permite situar el estilo aquí y no allí. En este aspecto, Rubalcaba opina que su predisposición a estar alerta tiene que ver con el hecho de formar parte de una cultura, la cubana, con afán de relacionarse, “sin el temor dé que ese vínculo nos proporcione confusión”. Tradición y jazz >El pianista contaba ayer que viene de una familia de músicos de ritmos tradicionales, con lo que los Acaño y Barbarito Díez entraron en su imaginario para compartir pupitre con los Benny Goodman y Errol Garner que escuchaba en la radio y en casa como un hecho doméstico. Más tarde, en la academia de corte clasista y con 14 años, empezó a sentir otras necesidades y se introdujo en eso de la improvisación con otros compañeros. Genio> Rubalcaba afirma que le da terror escuchar a alguien decir que es uno de los mejores pianistas del mundo. En cualquier caso, añade que si se llega a un nivel importante es por el cúmulo de experiencias, “que se registran más en unos que en otros, de estar un poco al tanto de lo que está pasando alrededor”. Con todo y eso, es básico tener disciplina -señala- que no lo es todo y tiene que ir acompañada necesariamente de la visión, del talento y el pequeño instinto qUl’: hace que el músico vaya por un sitio y no por otro. Después está el tiempo, que dictamina si el camino ha sido el correcto. La validez de fusionar estilos sólo se sabe escuchando el resultado y “hay muchos que han llegado al jazz desde otros puntos y crecen sin la intención de profundizar sobre el género”. Aunque se pueden decir cosas de uno, asegura, la última palabra nunca está dicha y hay que seguir dándole brillo al talento, que va parejo a la técnica. Uno tiene que buscar el equilibrio entre ambos. “En el momento que tus necesidades artísticas aumentan, tienes que abandonar ciertas técnicas para hacerlo todo más claro” porque, en esto de la música, dos por dos no tienen por qué ser cuatro y el orden los factores altera el resultado. Repetitivo> El problema es que . existe una falta de guía: “Critico a las escuelas porque muchas tienen como objetivo la repetición de ciertos iconos y símbolos”. La mala orientación como punto de partida, insiste, es una mala práctica que hace que todo lo que llega a ser un éxito pase por ser lo mismo. Lo importante es buscar un nivel musical con mensaje y en lo que respecta al jazz, “necesita retroalimentarse”, con un plus que viene de la formación, de ir a las bases y conocer la historia del jazz para entender-que todo esto empezóhace mucho tiempo. El hombreorquesta es consciente.

CRÓNICA I Gonzalo Rubalcaba actúa en A Coruña «Tocar solo es una aventura personal»

Tocar Solo PDF

«Tocar solo es una aventura personal»


El pianista cubano Gonzalo Rubalcaba se encuentra en A Coruña, donde ofrecerá mañana, a partir de las 20.30 horas, un concierto en el Teatro Colón, en el que se enfrentará en solitario a un repertorio que’ incluirá temas de su última grabación, Fe, ‘todavía sin publicar, y piezas de su disco Solo. Es una satisfacción encontrar-o se con Rubalcaba. Habla igual que toca. Utiliza los silencios, la inflexión en la voz e incluso la improvisación sobre los argumentos ,más teóricos en su fraseo expresivo. «Antes era un cubano pianista y ahora soy un pianista cubano», bromea al consultarle por su ruptura con el pianismo de ese país caribeño, plagado de malabarismos técnicos. Desde la publicación de Supernova, en el 2002, Gonzalo Rubalcaba inició un prooceso introspectivo en su expresión musical, mucho más sereno y contenido, «influido Por la vocación o la necesidad de tener que traducir y manejar distintos códigos», comenta en lo alto del escenario del Colón, junto a su piano. «Hay que abrirse a nuevas experiencias y defiendo tocar el piano solo, porque es el instrumento que lo tiene todo, la rítmica, la armónía y la melodía~), explica mientras fija el concepto: «El pianismo a solas es una aventura personal a la que trato de arrastrar a la gente. Me interesa provocar una historia al pú piablico », relata el pianista. Gonzalo Rubalcaba encaja en la figura de concertista jazzístico, su implicación intelectual con la mlísica y su capacidad de abstracción~ en la ejecución lo elevan siempre más .allá del pentagrama: «La técnica te ayuda a crear un recorrido», comep.ta sobre la exigencia del aprendizaje. «Siempre hay que recurrir a las bases en todo proceso de aprendizaje, los iconos jazzísticos son una referencia como punto de partida para los nuevos intérpretes, pero no pará seguir repitiendo lo que ellos ya hicieron, sino pará abrirse a nuevas experiencias manejando en todo momento elementos como la vocación, la disciplina y el talento», explica. Gonzalo Rubalcaba cree que· es válida la llegada de sonidos de otros ámbitos musicales al territorio del jazz, ya que «lo enriquece, aunque nunca profundizarán en el género». Para el ‘ pianista cubano, «el jazz siem- . pre está en proceso de retroalimentación ». Antes de la despedida~ Rubalcaba se sienta enfrente del piablico no instalado ya en el Teatro Colón y comienza a tocar un fragmento de una pieza para regocijo de los presentes. No es para menos. No todos los días se tiene la magnífica oportunidad de escuchar a pelo y de saborear a menos de un metro de distancia a uno de los grandes pianistas de jazz contemporáneos.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba Pianista

Gonzalo Rubalcaba Pianista PDF

El músico cubano actuó al frente de su banda en el festival de Jazz de Vitoria



Hay un solo Gonzalo Rubalcaba (La Habana, 1963). El hombre y el artista, la vida y la música se influyen mutuamente y dan como resultado una trayectoria coherente. Es algo que relaciona al pianista cubano -todo un peso pesado del jazz- con un gran maestro al que conoció en su juventud, Dizzy Gillespie, «sin barreras entre la ‘persona y la leyenda». – Ha visitado Vitoria varias veces con propuestas musicales diferentes. ¿Cómo es la de esta ocasión? – Es el repertorio de un disco llamado ‘Avatar’. Debo decir que no tiene nada que ver con la película, ja, ja, ya que salió un año y medio antes. Grabamos en Nueva York con un grupo de músicos muyjóvenes radicados allí. Era una propuesta muy de colaboración, con la participación de diversos compositores. Estan también Yosvany Terry, el bajista Matt Brewer y hay un tema de los códigos musicales norteame- ticanos: ‘Peace’, de Horace Silver. – ¿Cómo surgió ese concepto? – Hacía tiempo que yo tenía la idea de conformar una agrupación con una generación de músicos cubanos emigrados recientemente a Estados Unidos y otros que crecieron o nacieron allí, pero con conexiones latinas. Hay un vínculo también con los jóvenes norteame-ric~ os que han estado más pendientes de 10 que se hacía en otras partes. Creo que el disco refleja el sen’tir de esta generación, con la que me siento identificado. – ¿En qué aspectos? – Están jugando con estructuras musicalés y códigos, dentro de un discurso como el que yo venía tanteando desde hace unos años. – En su discografía, hayun ‘Inner Voyage’, un ‘Viaje interior’, que marca un punto de inflexión. – Fue el momento de llegar a Estados Unidos. Salí de Cuba y estuve en República Dominicana, donde viví unos seis años. En noviembre de 1996 fui a Florida con mi familia. Desarrollaba actividades con músicos norteamericanos y tenía un contrato discográfico con una filial de Blue Note. Había colaborado con Charlie Haden, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Paul Motian o Joe Lovano, entre otros. Sentía una comunicación más directa con aquella cultura. Yel disco refleja la tradición norteamericana y el concepto de trío, con una importancia tremenda en la evolución del jazz. – ¿Qué supuso? – Fue el inicio de un nuevo vínculo con la realidad norteamericana, como país, como cultura o sociedad. También había algo narrativo y familiar, como las tres piezas que dedicaba a cadauno de mis hijos, y tiene que ver con el proceso de emigrar. Conecté también con unageneración de músicos cubanos llegados allá en los 80, como el batería Ignacio Berroa. Visión política – Siempre ha matizado que no emigró por motivos políticos. ¿Es importante dejarlo claro? – En ningún sitio se ha especulado como en Estados Unidos sobre mi visión política. La realidad te obliga a tomar partido y a hacer un análisis; en función de tus ideas e intereses. No sólo profesionales, sino también sobre cómo debe ser una sociedad justa. Creo que ha sufrido manipulaciones no bien intencionadas. Yo soy parte de una generación que creció ahí y luego ha tomado sus propias decisiones. Mis intereses eran profesionales. _ – ¿Cómo ha evolucionado su relación con el piano? – Hoy me equivoco, como hace años. Pero esos errores tienen que ver con un marco más amplio de vivencias) sueños de logros y penas, tanto profesionales como personales o familiares.

Im Interview: Gonzalo Rubalcaba Den Wurzeln treu geblieben Bosendorfer Magazine

Im Interview: Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Den Wurzeln treu geblieben

Der gebürtige Kubaner Gonzalo Rubalcaba gilt als einer der weltbesten Jazzpianisten. Herbie Hancock adelte ihn einst mit den Worten »Das ist der Klang des 21. Jahrhunderts«. Neben spektakulären Cuban-Jazz-Rock Projekten gehört auch das klassische Klaviertrio zu seinen großen Leidenschaften. Und Rubalcaba liebt die Bösendorfer Flügel.

BÖSENDORFER: Herr Rubalcaba, Sie wurden in Havanna, der Hauptstadt Kubas, geboren und entstammen einer höchst musikalischen Familie. Ihr Vater Guillermo Rubalcaba ist Pianist und Ihr Großvater Jacobo Gonzales Rubalcaba war Komponist. Wer von den beiden hat den jungen Musiker Gonzalo mehr geprägt?

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Mein Großvater schaffte es, Komponist, Dirigent und zugleich Lehrer zu sein, und zusätzlich zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts die künstlerische Dynamik im Westen Spielt den »Klang des 21. Jahrhunderts«: Der gebürtige Kubaner Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Kubas mit zu prägen. Die Kunstform des von Militärkapellen gespielten »Danzón« hat ihn am meisten geprägt und wurde von ihm wesentlich mitgestaltet. Sein tiefer Bezug zu Disziplin und Übung war nicht allein auf die Musik beschränkt. Er brachte ihn auch in die Familie ein. Mein Vater Guillermo Rubalcaba ist der jüngste von vier Brüdern. Er war bereits in jungen Jahren ein sehr vielseitiger Musiker, aber das Klavier gab ihm den grössten musikalischen Freiraum. Über einige Jahrzehnte hindurch hat er die klassische kubanische Musik, von Danzón, Bolero über Cha Cha Cha, entwickelt, ständig bemüht die unterschiedlichen Strömungen einzufangen. Meine Kindheit war eingehüllt und getragen von meinem familiären Umfeld und wichtigen kubanischen Profimusikern.

BÖSENDORFER: Haben Sie sich frühzeitig für eine musikalische Karriere entschieden?

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Ich denke schon. Schon in jungen Jahren zeigte ich mein grosses Interesse an Percussion.

BÖSENDORFER: Sie studierten Percussion, Klavier und Komposition am Konservatorium und später am »Havanna Institute of Fine Arts«. Denken Sie gern an diese Zeit zurück? Was haben Sie aus dieser Zeit für Ihre musikalische Karriere mitgenommen?

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Diese Zeit hat mir sehr geholfen, das theoretische und intellektuelle Handwerkszeug zu erhalten, um eine solide Basis für den Musiker zu schaffen, der ich heute bin. Obwohl konzeptuelle Differenzen und Gegensätze bezeichnend waren zwischen dem klassischen Schulstoff und den Gipfeln zeitgenössischer Musik, habe ich das Wertvollste aus all dem mitgenommen. Eine der wichtigsten Lektionen, die ich dank meiner klassischen Ausbildung gelernt habe, ist, dass ich die Wurzeln meiner musikalischen Herkunft nicht verleugnen darf und immer wieder Gemeinsamkeiten dieser beiden Welten entdecke.

BÖSENDORFER: Wann und warum haben Sie beschlossen, dass Jazz Ihr persönliches, musikalisches Ausdrucksmittel ist?

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Im Alter von 10, 12 Jahren habe ich Zuhause alte LPs mit Jazzmusik von Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, West Montgomery, Dizzy Gillespie und anderen Künstlern entdeckt. Meine Aufmerksamkeit war gefesselt vom Klang, den diese Solisten und Bands hervorbrachten. Da wurde die Grenze zwischen erdachter und improvisierter Musik aufgehoben. Mit 12 oder 13 Jahren fand dann ich heraus, dass sich einige meiner Schulfreunde bereits mit Jazz-Improvisation Kubas mit zu prägen. Die Kunstform des von Militärkapellen gespielten »Danzón« hat ihn am meisten geprägt und wurde von ihm wesentlich mitgestaltet. Sein tiefer Bezug zu Disziplin und Übung war nicht allein auf die Musik beschränkt. Er brachte ihn auch in die Familie ein. Mein Vater Guillermo Rubalcaba ist der jüngste von vier Brüdern. Er war bereits in jungen Jahren ein sehr vielseitiger Musiker, aber das Klavier gab ihm den grössten musikalischen Freiraum. Über einige Jahrzehnte hindurch hat er die klassische kubanische Musik, von Danzón, Bolero über Cha Cha Cha, entwickelt, ständig bemüht die unterschiedlichen Strömungen einzufangen. Meine Kindheit war eingehüllt und getragen von meinem familiären Umfeld und wichtigen kubanischen Profimusikern.

BÖSENDORFER: Haben Sie sich frühzeitig für eine musikalische Karriere entschieden?

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Ich denke schon. Schon in jungen Jahren zeigte ich mein grosses Interesse an Percussion.

BÖSENDORFER: Sie studierten Percussion, Klavier und Komposition am Konservatorium und später am »Havanna Institute of Fine Arts«. Denken Sie gern an diese Zeit zurück? Was haben Sie aus dieser Zeit für Ihre musikalische Karriere mitgenommen?

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Diese Zeit hat mir sehr geholfen, das theoretische und intellektuelle Handwerkszeug zu erhalten, um eine solide Basis für den Musiker zu schaffen, der ich heute bin. Obwohl konzeptuelle Differenzen und Gegensätze bezeichnend waren zwischen dem klassischen Schulstoff und den Gipfeln zeitgenössischer Musik, habe ich das Wertvollste aus all dem mitgenommen. Eine der wichtigsten Lektionen, die ich dank meiner klassischen Ausbildung gelernt habe, ist, dass ich die Wurzeln meiner musikalischen Herkunft nicht verleugnen darf und immer wieder Gemeinsamkeiten dieser beiden Welten entdecke.

BÖSENDORFER: Wann und warum haben Sie beschlossen, dass Jazz Ihr persönliches, musikalisches Ausdrucksmittel ist?

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Im Alter von 10, 12 Jahren habe ich Zuhause alte LPs mit Jazzmusik von Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, West Montgomery, Dizzy Gillespie und anderen Künstlern entdeckt. Meine Aufmerksamkeit war gefesselt vom Klang, den diese Solisten und Bands hervorbrachten. Da wurde die Grenze zwischen erdachter und improvisierter Musik aufgehoben. Mit 12 oder 13 Jahren fand dann ich heraus, dass sich einige meiner Schulfreunde bereits mit Jazz-Improvisation Kubas mit zu prägen. Die Kunstform des von Militärkapellen gespielten »Danzón« hat ihn am meisten geprägt und wurde von ihm wesentlich mitgestaltet. Sein tiefer Bezug zu Disziplin und Übung war nicht allein auf die Musik beschränkt. Er brachte ihn auch in die Familie ein. Mein Vater Guillermo Rubalcaba ist der jüngste von vier Brüdern. Er war bereits in jungen Jahren ein sehr vielseitiger Musiker, aber das Klavier gab ihm den grössten musikalischen Freiraum. Über einige Jahrzehnte hindurch hat er die klassische kubanische Musik, von Danzón, Bolero über Cha Cha Cha, entwickelt, ständig bemüht die unterschiedlichen Strömungen einzufangen. Meine Kindheit war eingehüllt und getragen von meinem familiären Umfeld und wichtigen kubanischen Profimusikern.

BÖSENDORFER: Haben Sie sich frühzeitig für eine musikalische Karriere entschieden?

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Ich denke schon. Schon in jungen Jahren zeigte ich mein grosses Interesse an Percussion.

BÖSENDORFER: Sie studierten Percussion, Klavier und Komposition am Konservatorium und später am »Havanna Institute of Fine Arts«. Denken Sie gern an diese Zeit zurück? Was haben Sie aus dieser Zeit für Ihre musikalische Karriere mitgenommen?

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Diese Zeit hat mir sehr geholfen, das theoretische und intellektuelle Handwerkszeug zu erhalten, um eine solide Basis für den Musiker zu schaffen, der ich heute bin. Obwohl konzeptuelle Differenzen und Gegensätze bezeichnend waren zwischen dem klassischen Schulstoff und den Gipfeln zeitgenössischer Musik, habe ich das Wertvollste aus all dem mitgenommen. Eine der wichtigsten Lektionen, die ich dank meiner klassischen Ausbildung gelernt habe, ist, dass ich die Wurzeln meiner musikalischen Herkunft nicht verleugnen darf und immer wieder Gemeinsamkeiten dieser beiden Welten entdecke.

BÖSENDORFER: Wann und warum haben Sie beschlossen, dass Jazz Ihr persönliches, musikalisches Ausdrucksmittel ist?

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Im Alter von 10, 12 Jahren habe ich Zuhause alte LPs mit Jazzmusik von Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, West Montgomery, Dizzy Gillespie und anderen Künstlern entdeckt. Meine Aufmerksamkeit war gefesselt vom Klang, den diese Solisten und Bands hervorbrachten. Da wurde die Grenze zwischen erdachter und improvisierter Musik aufgehoben. Mit 12 oder 13 Jahren fand dann ich heraus, dass sich einige meiner Schulfreunde bereits mit Jazz-Improvisation befassten. Ich fühlte, dass das, was sie spielten, voll von dieser jungen Energie war, die den Geist unseres Alters ausmachte, und ich wollte dazugehören.

BÖSENDORFER: Sie haben Kuba 1990 verlassen, haben sechs Jahre lang in der Dominikanischen Republik gelebt, bevor Sie sich in Florida niedergelassen haben. Welche Auswirkungen hatten und haben diese Veränderungen auf Ihre Musik?

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Der Weg über die Dominikanische Republik in die Vereinigten Staaten brachte und bringt noch immer Erfahrungen und Lernschritte in fast allen Bereichen meines Lebens mit sich. Es ist ein ständiges Verstehen und Herausfinden von allem, der Ausdrucksweise, der Sprache, des Verhaltens und der Geschichte, von allem, was die Menschen geprägt und zu dieser Nation gemacht hat. Als Berufsmusiker ist es sehr wichtig zu wissen, wie sich eine Nation und deren Identität zusammensetzen. Auf diese Art kann ich in ihr leben, sie lieben, sie kritisieren, kann es schätzen, meinen Platz in ihr gefunden zu haben.

BÖSENDORFER: Sie sind ein großartiger Pianist. Wie kam es, dass Sie sich neben der Percussion für das Klavier entschieden haben?

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Das Klavier war sozusagen mein Ausweg, das benötigte Alter für die Percussionausbildung zu umgehen. Zuerst hatte ich zwei Möglichkeiten: Klavier oder Geige. Es war meine Mutter, die mir das Klavierspiel ans Herz legte. Mit einigen Schwierigkeiten begann ich mit dem Klavierstudium, denn es war ja nicht wirklich mein Wunschinstrument. Keine drei Jahre später verliebte ich mich in dieses kostbare Instrument.

BÖSENDORFER: Sie lieben Bösendorfer Flügel. Was genau mögen Sie an ihnen?

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Bösendorfer als Hersteller hat einen Teil der Musikgeschichte in Europa geformt, der dann die ganze Welt beeinflusst hat. Bösendorfer ist einer der ernstzunehmendsten Klavierhersteller mit einer sehr konstanten Entwicklung. Die Flügel bieten außer der Bösendorfer Identität dem Spieler auch noch eine Vielzahl von Wegen, den Klang und die Dynamik und sonstige ästhetische Qualitäten nach Wunsch zu erzeugen.

BÖSENDORFER: Sie treten nicht nur solo auf, sondern meistens in Trios oder im Quartett. Was gefällt Ihnen an der Arbeit in der Gruppe?

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Teamarbeit ist faszinierend und auch notwendig, ähnlich wie das menschliche Bedürfnis nach sozialem Kontakt. Gruppenprojekte bieten eine Ansammlung von Intelligenz, die eine Art dynamische Wiederverwertung und Auffrischung der Informationen erlaubt, die von den einzelnen Gruppenmitgliedern eingebracht werden. Aber natürlich muss dafür »die Chemie stimmen«.

BÖSENDORFER: Sie bilden zuhause auch ein Quintett: Sie sind glücklich verheiratet und haben drei Kinder. Wie verträgt sich Ihre rege Konzerttätigkeit mit Ihrer Eigenschaft als Familienvater?

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Ich bin mittlerweile seit 23 Jahren mit meiner wunderschönen Frau Maria verheiratet. Eine Ehe, die nach nur zwei Jahre währendem Werben geschlossen wurde. Marias Eltern stammen aus dem Kunst- und Filmgeschäft. Sie ist in einer intellektuellen und künstlerischen Umgebung aufgewachsen und lernte acht Jahre lang klassische Gitarre. Das machte sie allerdings nicht zu ihrem Beruf. Wir haben drei Kinder – Joao 19, Joan 16 und Yolanda 13 Jahre alt – und sie sind der beste Grund, warum wir leben, lieben und besser musizieren. Die drei wachsen in einem künstlerischen Umfeld auf; man wird sehen, inwieweit sie das beeinflusst. Sie sollen jedoch in ihrem Leben das tun können, was ihnen wichtig ist. Maria und ich sind uns einig: das Wichtigste im Leben ist zu tun und zu sein was, wo und mit wem man sein möchte. Eine musikalische Karriere ist nichts Statisches, aber ich hatte stets meine Ehefrau mit ihrem ausgeprägten Familiensinn. Und bei Bedarf hatten wir die Unterstützung meiner Familie. Auch wenn ich nicht immer physisch anwesend bin, so versuche ich doch, ständig in Kontakt zu bleiben. Wenn ich zuhause bin, kümmere ich mich um meine Familie und all ihre Bedürfnisse.

Marion Alexander, Mira Weihs, Rupert Löschnauer

Gonzalo Rubalcaba Interview at Blue Note Tokyo

Question : まずはじめに、日本で演奏した感想をお聞かせください。

Gonzalo: はじめて日本に来たのは91年でした。その後何度も来ていますが、日本で演奏することは、私にとって幸せなことです。日本の聴衆はたいへん熱心に音楽を聴く、興味深い観客です。耳が良く、音楽家に敬意を示してくれるのです。ブルーノート東京はジャズクラブですが、ここでの演奏は、まるで劇場やホールで弾いているように感じられます。ですからいつも気持ち良く、幸せに演奏することができます。

Question : チャーリー・ヘイデン(ベース)との出会いについて教えてください。

Gonzalo: もう20年も前のことです。1985か86年で、私は21か22才ぐらいの時でした。チャーリーはジャズ・フェスティバルでキューバに来ていました。そこで私たちの友情と仕事がはじまったのです。

ゴンサロ・ルバルカバ(ピアノ) 、チャーリー・ヘイデン(ベース)

Question : 今回の公演はピアノとベースのデュオですが、このフォーマットでの演奏は難しいですか。

Gonzalo : 決して簡単なことではありません。けれども私たちは二人で演奏することを快適だと感じています。簡単でないというのは、私たちがジャズ、特にオリジナルのジャズをデュオでやろうとしているわけではなく、ジャンルや形式にとらわれない「音楽」のデュオをやろうとしているからなのです。チャーリーの音楽があったり、私の音楽があったり、北米音楽、キューバ音楽、メキシコ音楽など、たくさんの音楽の影響を受けている音楽です。さらにクラシックの影響、伝統的なラテンアメリカ音楽、北アメリカの音楽の影響など、あらゆる音楽や文化が相互作用している、これが私たちのデュオの面白いところだと思います。

Question : アメリカに住むようになって、キューバとアメリカの間にある政治的な難しさについて感じることはありますか。

Gonzalo: 難しさは40数年前から存在しています。これは不幸にも政治的な問題です。ふたつの国は、文化的に非常に近いのに、政治的には非常にかけ離れています。これが両国の文化的、国民的交流を難しくしていると思います。けれども私はいつか状況が良くなるだろうと信じています。

Question : ヤマハピアノの印象をお聞かせください。

Gonzalo: もう何年ヤマハを使っているかな・・・。たぶん7年ぐらい使っていると思いますが、ヤマハピアノは毎年、進歩していると感じています。おそらくヤマハが常にピアノをより良いものにしていこうという使命感を持っているからでしょう。私はヤマハと仕事ができて幸運だと思っています。

Question : ヤマハのサポートについてどんな感想をお持ちですか。

Gonzalo: これ以上求めるものがないほど素晴らしい。ピアノを送ってくれと電話をすればいつでも送ってくれる。しかも、素晴らしいコンディションのピアノを送ってくれる上に、熟練した技術者まで派遣してくれるのです。日本だけでなく、アメリカでも、ヨーロッパでも素晴らしいサポートを受けています。このことは、音楽家、特にピアニストにとって大変重要なことです。ヤマハがサポートしてくれるという安心感は何ものにも代え難いものです。ヤマハと一緒に仕事ができることにとても感謝しています。

Question : ヤマハピアノのタッチはいかがでしょうか。

Gonzalo : タッチはとてもバランスがとれています。非常に均一です。そして鍵盤の戻りが非常に素速い。しかも雑音を出しません。そして柔らかすぎず、固すぎずバランスが良く、まさに完璧です。

Question : ジャズを演奏する時にピアノに求めるものは何ですか。

Gonzalo : 私がピアノの前に座って一番始めに探すのは、音色です。ジャズだけでなく、それがクラシックであろうと、民族音楽であろうと、一番大切なのは、音色なのです。私はタッチを犠牲にしてでも、音色のいいピアノを選びます。演奏する時に多彩な音色が出せるピアノを優先します。

Question : ピアノに様々な音色を求めている、ということなのでしょうか。

Gonzalo: ピアノは私にとってオーケストラなのです。ピアノはたったひとつの楽器ではなく、美しいハーモニーを生むことができるすべてなのです。リズムをつくったり、打楽器的な音を出して違ったラインやフリンジ(飾り)や音楽的なテクスチャーを作ったり。これらは私がピアノから生み出すもので、オーケストラのようなものです。私にとって、ピアノは、単なるひとつの楽器ではないのです。

Question : 今後の活動の予定を教えてください。

Gonzalo: 今年は予定がたくさんあります。ブルーノートで2枚のアルバムを録音します。1枚は7月にカルテットで、年末にはソロで。それから、いまシンフォニーを2曲、書き終えるところです。来年演奏したいと思っています。

Question : 近作ではシンセサイザーなどの電子楽器を導入なさっていますね。

Gonzalo: 音楽的な必要性があるときには使います。私は音を深く追求するのが好きなのです。ですからシンセサイザーや電子楽器を手にしたら、パラメーターを変えて、プリセットプログラムにはない音を作り出すのです。これは自分自身の世界を作ろうとする試みです。

Question : ヤマハのピアノに欠けているものを挙げるとすれば何でしょうか。

Gonzalo : 欠けているもの・・・。足りないのは、時間かな。10年か15年前、ヤマハピアノのトーンはちょっと鼻に詰まったようで、音は明るすぎるという印象でしたが、この点はどんどん良くなったと思います。

Question : 音楽を志す若者にアドバイスをいただきたいのですが。

Gonzalo : 私はいつも、才能に加えて規律正しさが大切だ、と言っています。私は才能と規律のふたつが良い結果を生むのだと思っています。作曲にしても、演奏にしても、音楽には精神的なものが必要だということに気がつかなければいけません。お金や名声を得るための単なる仕事ではなく、人間として成長するために役立つものです。これが音楽をする上で重要なことだと思います。
私にとって、音楽は宗教のような意味を持っています。それは幸せでない時に幸せにしてくれ、寂しい時に幸福にしてくれ、孤独な時にそばにいてくれるものです。(Cuando no estoy feliz, me hace feliz. Cuando estoy triste, me hace feliz. Cuando estoy solo, me acompaña.) そしていつも物事を深く考えさせるものなのです。これが私のメッセージです。

Question : 最後に、ゴンサロさんにとって、ピアノとは何でしょうか。

Gonzalo : 常に私の人生でした、というよりも音楽が私の人生でした。人生のあらゆる点において、私の救いだったと思います。音楽は病気の時、癒しを与えてくれました。笑いたい時にも音楽を求めました。泣きたい時にも音楽を求めました。そして、音楽とは自分を決して裏切らない、数少ないもののひとつです。

Question : 今日の対話で、ゴンサロさんの音楽への敬虔な気持に感銘を受けました。

Gonzalo : そうありたいといつも思っています。逆に音楽に不誠実でいることは難しいことです。自分が自分の音楽に誠実ではない時、観客はそれに気がついてしまうでしょう。ステージに上がったら、自分が言いたいことを観客に納得してもらわなければいけません。だからこそ音楽に誠実でなければいけないのです。


ゴンサロ・ルバルカバ [Gonzalo Rubalcaba]
1963年5月27日、キューバのハバナ生まれ。ピアニストの父に英才教育を受け、幼い頃からパーカッションとピアノを学んだほか、作曲や楽理などの正式教育を受ける。10代中盤からピアニストとして演奏活動を始め、民族音楽からジャズまで幅広くプレイ。89年ベーシスト、チャーリー・ヘイデンと共演、’90年にスイスのモントルー・ジャズ祭に出演。’91年には日本企画の第2作『ブレッシング』を録音。アルバムの発表直後にマウント・フジ・ジャズ祭に出演し、本邦公式デビューを飾った。’93年5月には、国交の途絶えたアメリカ・ニューヨークで初公演を実施。音楽界からばかりでなく、文化的、政治的注目を浴びた。’96年からアメリカに起居し、トップ・クラスのジャズミュージシャンと共演。同時に自身のトリオを率いて全米や欧州も巡る精力的な活動を続けてきた。チャーリー・ヘイデンのアルバム『ノクターン』(ユニバーサル ミュージック)が、第44回グラミー(’01年度)の「最優秀ラテン・ジャズ・アルバム賞」に輝いた。

Jazz Magazine-Italy-Sempre oltre i codici della musica


di Gian Franco Grilli

Su un vecchio numero di Musica Jazz ho letto che hai suonato, tra gli altri, con Los Van Van, Irakere e addirittura con Benny Moré. È vero?

Grazie per l’opportunità di correggere. Benny Moré è morto nel 1963, tre mesi prima della mia nascita; con Irakere non ho mai lavorato, mentre ho suonato con Los Van Van all’inizio del 1980, quando Juan Formell – il direttore della band – mi chiamò per sostituire temporaneamente César «Pupi» Pedroso, il tastierista del gruppo che si era infortunato. Giacché si parla di orchestre di musica ballabile, nel 1983 ho fatto parte dell’Orquesta Arag6n nella tournée in Congo e Zaire, con un salto anche a Parigi, interpretando pezzi di Rafael Lay e Richard EgOes, cha cha cha, danzan, bolero, guaracha, mozancha molto noti in Africa. Agli inizi ho condiviso un gruppo con Isaac Delgado, ho partecipato con José L. Cortés, German Velazco e altri ad alcune registrazioni di son moderno uscite a Cuba dall’Egrem con il nome Nueva Generaci6n. Inoltre ho inciso alcuni brani nei dischi del dominicano Juan Luis Guerra.

Ti destreggiavi con la tradizione dei ritmi afrocubani, ma il jazz? Era già il tuo linguaggio principale? Puoi farci un piccolo ritratto dalle origini?

Diciamo che vengo da una famiglia di musicisti. Mio nonno Jacobo era un famoso danzonero e mio padre Guillermo ha suonato il pianoforte per vent’anni con Enrique Jorrin, l’ideatore del cha cha cha, poi quando lasciò l’orchestra formò una band di famiglia, El Combo Los Rubalcaba, e io cominciai a suonare musica popolare nei cabaret e alla tv cubana. Lì ho avuto la possibilità di sviluppare il concetto dell’improvvisazione jazz che poi ho coltivato anche altrove, suonando la batteria. Infatti a metà dei Settanta, come batterista, creai Da Capo, un gruppo sperimentale tra latin jazz e fusion (mi rifacevo a Irakere), e con quello partecipai ai primissimi Jazz Festival all’Avana.

…quindi si inizia con la batteria e si finisce al pianoforte. Com’è successo anche a illustri tuoi connazionali: Emiliano Salvador, Omar Sosa e altri. Cosa c’è dietro?

Prima di rispondere tengo a ricordare che ho studiato contemporaneamente percussione e pianoforte. Sì, è un fenomeno curioso, quello di passare dalle pelli ai tasti, e oltre ai nomi citati puoi aggiungere Chick Corea, dalla batteria al pianoforte, mentre Jack DeJohnette fa il percorso inverso. lo penso che questo cambio sia dettato da necessità espressive: il pianoforte offre possibilità melodiche, ritmiche e armoniche senza eguali negli altri strumenti, e credo anche che questi strumentisti avessero in nuce la vocazione del compositore. Nel mio caso – anche se non pratico gli strumenti a percussione – continuano a crescere in me idee percussive che proietto sulla tastiera. L’evoluzione metrica, ritmica, le elaborazioni si svolgono mentalmente nella musica che si fa.

Quali sono stati i maestri della percussione che adoravi?

Erano diversi, ma i nomi più rappresentativi sono stati il multipercussionista José Luis «Changuito» Quintana, lo scomparso Daniel Diaz dell’Orquesta Ritmo Orientai (un timbalero molto innovativo soprattutto nella sonorità, con un set di percussioni molto particolare – timbales, cassa, rullante – e una fusione di stile nordamericano e afrocubano: in quel periodo quasi nessuno lavorava in quel modo), il conguero Tata GOines e il batterista Guillermo Barreto (ha suonato con l’Aragon). Questi erano per me i punti di riferimento più importanti.

E i tuoi idoli del jazz in generale?

Ho iniziato ad ascoltare Art Tatum, Bill Evans, Bud Powell, ma mi colpì il modo di suonare di Erroll Garner. Mi piaceva molto ascoltare altri strumenti e artisti come Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz e Dizzy Gillespie.

Dizzy è l’artista nordamericano che più di ogni altro ha dato dignità internazionale alla musica e ai musicisti di Cuba. Non credi che si meriterebbe un monumento o un parco pari almeno a quello riservato a John Lennon all’Avana?

Sono convinto che avrebbero dovuto farglielo, ancora prima della statua a Lennon, come riconoscimento non solo alla sua genialità musicale, ma all’intelligenza e sensibilità dimostrata a tutti i musicisti dell’America Latina. Gillespie nella sua band ha avuto sempre un musicista di origine latina: Mario Bauza, Chano Pozo, Ignacio Berroa, Danilo Pérez, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Giovanni Hidalgo, Lalo Schifrin, Claudio Roditi ecc. Ha sempre vissuto con l’inquietudine di conoscere e apprendere i codici che compongono la musica cubana, portoricana, argentina, panamense, brasiliana; voleva capirne gli elementi comuni, il suo progetto era quello di unire. E in questo senso una pietra miliare del suo lavoro è la United Nations Orchestra. lo Dizzy l’ho conosciuto quando stavo suonando al Cabaret Parisienne dell’Hotel Nacional dell’Avana, che era una sede distaccata del Festival 1985, e al termine dell’esibizione del mio gruppo venne sul palco e mi disse: «Sono Dizzy Gillespie, ti va di suonare con me domani?». Ovviamente accettai di andare con il mio Grupo Proyecto e così iniziò il nostro rapporto di amicizia e collaborazione.

Assieme a Irakere, negli anni Ottanta il Grupo Proyecto era l’eccellenza del jazz cubano, con uno stile originale che mescolava tradizione, elettronica, fusion. Hai mai pensato di riprendere quello scintillante progetto che hai portato in tutto il mondo e che ha fatto tappa anche in Italia?

È vero: ci siamo incontrati per un’intervista in una roulotte al Festival dell’Unità di Firenze, nel 1988, poi il concerto fu sospeso per maltempo. Di riunire il Proyecto non ho mai pensato, per la verità, anche perché i vari musicisti hanno preso diversi indirizzi e sono sparsi in giro per il mondo: Roberto Vizcafno vive in Messico, Felipe Cabrera in Francia, Reynaldo Milian a Cuba, Horacio «El Negro» Hernandez negli Stati Uniti, Julio Barreto (che sostituì El Negro) è in Svizzera e A breve credo non sia possibile, ma le vie del Signore .

La diaspora mi dà lo spunto per affrontare un argomento che cercai di sottoporre un paio di anni fa a un famoso musicista cubano, che si arrabbiò troncando l’intervista. Come si fa a mantenere la cubanità negli Stati Uniti, o in un altro paese, parlando inglese, mangiando, dormendo e sognando americano, non sentendo più il canto del gallo che ti svegliava all’Avana, la rumba di strada, i canti dei venditori? E tutto questo influisce nella musica?

Sono certo che incide nel nostro pensiero, e la musica ne risente. lo credo che perdiamo un po’ la quotidianità, ciò che accade ogni giorno, il funzionamento dell’intero quadro. È vero, non appartenere a un determinato ambiente sociale, ritmato in modo diverso, ti disconnette dal processo che definisce la cubanfa oggi, che è differente dalla cubanfa di quando ero piccolo. Quando ascolto qualcuno degli elementi del mondo che hai citato, per esempio la rumba callejera, in me si sprigionano emozioni e un’energia particolare, è un impatto forte che non sgorga, però, in un altro contesto, in un’altra realtà. Mi dai l’occasione di accennare alla diaspora: io prendo sempre l’esempio di Mario Bauza, che uscì da Cuba alla fine degli anni Venti (quando Fidel era appena nato) perché sentiva il bisogno di crescere soprattutto dal punto di vista professionale; a lui interessava vivere altre esperienze artistiche nel mondo, e sarebbe andato via con o senza Castro. C’è chi non ha varcato i confini e non uscirà mai da Cuba perché non è nei piani della sua vita.

Non è il tuo caso. Prima, un paio di anni a Santo Domingo; dal 1996 in Florida, dove i capi della comunità

cubana in esilio hanno boicottato i tuoi concerti, tempo addietro. Èvero? E ora, per essere accettato,

hai dovuto concedere qualcosa?

Alla prima domanda rispondo che è andata proprio così. Ma questo accade perché non si tiene conto che la mia (e quella successiva) è una generazione molto liberale, non appartiene a nessuna fazione politica, ama le cose equilibrate, una giustizia vera ma senza retorica, vuole che la gente possa esprimersi liberamente. E non si identifica con nessuna posizione estremista, un atteggiamento presente sia nel sud della Florida sia a Cuba. Quindi la nostra generazione ha dovuto far fronte a due problemi: a Cuba non poteva esercitare completamente questi diritti; a Miami trova qualcosa di analogo, non può dire tutto quello che vede, è una sorta di gioco degli specchi.

Insomma, tra incudine e martello.

Esattamente. A Cuba non vedevano di buon occhio un mio concerto a Miami, mentre qui i leader della comunità cubana hanno fatto di tutto per impedirlo. È stata una situazione complicata, ma poi ho acquisito la nazionalità americana (quella cubana non si perde), e comunque non sono mai sceso a compromessi per vivere in libertà la mia vita personale, pubblica e professionale. Èprobabile che questa mia equidistanza sia il fattore che infastidisce entrambi e francamente oggi non so se realmente sono accettato o meno in Florida, dove del resto non mi esibisco quasi mai: in dodici anni ci ho suonato tre volte.

Perché allora non hai deciso di trasferirti nella capitale del jazz?

Èvero che a New York ci sono più possibilità di accedere al mondo jazzistico, ma la mia scelta è di tipo unicamente familiare. Quando sono arrivato negli Stati Uniti avevo già una famiglia e dei bambini e mi sembrava difficile portarli a New York, con un tipo di vita più dura, a parte il clima. Non ho voluto esporre a un cambio così drastico i miei figli, il più grande dei quali è nato a Cuba, il secondo nella Repubblica Dominicana e la più piccola negli Stati Uniti.

Di movimenti significativi, invece, è costellata la tua vita artistica. Da Mozart ai Weather Report, dal danzan al bop, dal bolero jazz alla bossa, a John Lennon, e ora un’altra svolta. Cosa ti spinge a ibri ibridare il tuo pensiero con linguaggi sempre nuovi?

Non ho mai pensato ai generi musicali e non mi piace classificare la musica, perché ritengo che catalogare l’arte sia un aspetto più commerciale che creativo. Credo che il mercato – compresa a volte la musicologia tenda a fare categorie per la necessità di creare settori, tappe, periodi, tentare di spiegare il fenomeno e trovargli delle connessioni. Questo è un procedimento di ricerca e di analisi che non mi riguarda. Molto dipende da circostanze generali di vita: dalle persone con le quali ti confronti in un determinato periodo, cosa ricevi da quel rapporto, cosa leggi o studi, e ascolti.

Cosa ti ha spinto verso Richard Galliano? La voglia di confrontare le tue tradizioni fatte di danzan, habanera e tanqo-conqo con il jazz atipico di Richard che indaga tango, milonga e ehoro?

No, penso che gli artisti si cerchino senza volerlo, si chiamino, perché incontrano cose comuni. Questo progetto, raccolto nel Cd «Love Day», è il risultato di vari anni di lavoro individuale, dove ci sono vari elementi comuni a tutti noi: a me, a Richard, ma anche a Charlie Haden che vi suona il basso e a Mino Cinelu che suona le percussioni. Richard ha pensato ai musicisti che in questo momento ritiene più adatti per una certa direzione e sapeva che io, Charlie e Mino abbiamo lavorato sempre senza preconcetti e con differenti tipi di riferimenti culturali. Nel disco questo spirito viene fuori. Tutta la musica è composta da Galliano, con le influenze che lui ha ricevuto e i suoi punti di contatto con le varie musiche: la tradizione francese nell’ambito della fisarmonica, il tango argentino, i ritmi sudamericani, elementi della cultura francese passati a Cuba attraverso la contraddanza eccetera. Comunque questi sono incontri che fanno parte del destino.

Gian Franco Grilli

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