|Havana (Prensa Latina) The 27th International Jazz Plaza Festival gained extra prominence with the visit of Gonzalo Julio Gonzalez Fonseca, a.k.a Gonzalito Rubalcaba, an authentic Cuban “piano man.”
After 10 years without any presentation for Cuban audiences, Gonzalito Rubalcaba´s presence was highly anticipated by jazz lovers. A man born in the middle of the boom of The Beatles, on May 27, 1963 in Havana, Gonzalito is the heir of a dynasty of musicians.
His father, Guillermo Gonzalez Camejo (Rubalcaba), is the piano player with Charanga Rubalcaba; his grandfather, Jacobo Gonzalez Rubalcaba, was a band director, a classic Cuban danzon player, who wrote that beautiful piece called “El Cadete Constitucional” (The Constitutional Cadet).
In his performances, Gonzalito Rubalcaba presents a synthesis of his studies in Cuba, his experimentations, his natural talent and the projects with many of the most famous piano players in modern jazz today.
Along with his perfect piano training, he shows a very solid maturity. He performs sounds that are not too usual in the world of jazz piano playing. He knows how to play with all possibilities offered by harmonic ideas, the colors, the dynamics, the real “touch of grace” that Europeans talk about.
Simple and responsible by nature, a man of few words, he does not like to waste time, and when something is not synchronized, he gets very anxious. His life is concentrated in studying and playing the piano, in the creation of music.
In 1984, he was catapulted by US trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and bassist Charlie Haden to the world of jazz stars. Gillespie said at that time that he had not met such an accomplished musician for a long time. He is the best piano player I have heard for many years. Now, right now, he is the best piano player in the 90s”. And Charlie Haden considered him the great unexpected appearance in the jazz universe.
In 1996, Gonzalito started living in the Dominican Republic, in order to reach a wider market. He lived in the Dominican Republic for 10 years, then moved to Orlando, Florida, USA.
“I found myself in another world, another language, I faced a a different dynamics, I learned to work with the balance of sounds, the metric motor, diction, harmony, with the other musicians I worked with. I became involved in musical composition, forms and structure.
“I began a period of reflection, of change, of musical enrichment. I was in constant search; I play the traditional stuff, but with a different angle. My record Supernova is an exploratory work, a summary of my work.
“In my early years, I inclined more towards rhythm. Every young man wants to show his virtuosity, his complexity. Now, I am immersed in an evolution towards the melodic. I want to connect the melody with the jazz phrasing and the Cuban vocabulary. I am entering the area of the poetic.”
Now he likes to work in the development of harmony with his left hand in some rhythmic patterns, and the result of all this has been the recording of 14 CDÂ�s, 15 Grammy nominations, and 5 Grammy Awards.
Several of his records are collaborations with Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Al Dimeola, and others.
Now he is working toward the integral use of the instrument, quality sound, handling of the dynamics and the work with the rest of the musicians in his band.
He has played at different places such as the North Sea Festival in Holland, Ronnie Scottâ�Ös Club in London, Paradise Club in Amsterdam, Holland; Festival Pinks Amberes in Copenhagen, Denmark; Montreaux, Switzerland; Fuji Mount Festival, Japan and Lincoln Center, New York, to jmention just a few.
He has shared the stage with great jazz musicians such as Gato Barbieri, Michel Camilo, Astrid Gilberto, Al Dimeola, Ray Barreto, Tania Maria, Irakere, John Pattitucci, Tete Monteliu, Charlie Haden, Dizzy Gillespie, Ron Carter and others.
He has worked for a series of recording companies, including Bluie Note, EMI, Toshiba, GKM.
He was chosen the Artist of the Year in Japan in 1993 (for a second time in Japan) and the magazine Jazz Time (USA) classified him as Best Jazz Piano Performer.
In 1999, his CD “Inner Voyage” obtained the French Art Academy Awards, and he was nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album in 2002 with his CD “Supernova”.
Gonzalito has played with Cuban musicians belonging to other Cuban groups. Sintesis, Orquesta Aragon, Sonido Contemporaneo, Van Van, and singers such as Pablo MIlanes, Beatriz Marquez, Soledad Delgado (deceased) and Ela Calvo have been accompanied by his undeniable talent at the piano.
Asked about the Cuban music school, he said it is quite ortodox, but it is one of the best in the world.
“My country, Cuba has made a great effort for education in general, and particularly, in the solid studies of academic musicians,” he stated. Gonzalito Rubalcaba studies eight hours a day. He gets up at 8:00 a.m., has a good breakfast, which he says he enjoys more than the evening meal. Then he connects with music and studies from 9:00 to a little after noon.
In the afternoons, he writes music, he reads, listens to music. At six, he jogs and practices some sport. “That helps me to clear my mind and help me decide what direction to take,” he says. “I believe in discipline; the muse does exist, but the work has to be done. You have to put the mind to work, have responsibility, love, energy. It is a life that is a little isolated, but I enjoy it”.
He presently performs about 200 concerts a year, but with three children, he now wants to find more time to dedicate to his family.