The Urban Flux – Gonzalo Rubalcaba – XXI CENTURY – 5Passion, 2012 by Rob Young
Unknown by most of us at the time, the unanticipated arrival of soon to be Grammy Award winning pianist Gonzalo Julio Gonzalez Fonseca nativeCuban landed on the shores of US some twenty-five years ago. Since then of course pianist, improviser and songwriter recorded dozens of jazz recordings to his credit. With his latest project, the multi-facet virtuoso embarks on an unequalled journey with enchanting lyricism in the spirit of innovation he unleashes the exhilarating “XXI Century.” On this outing, his compositions swells from the womb of his beloved Afro-Cuban heritage and merges these voicings within the body of ten sumptuous and ambitious songs to pay tribute to two piano icons Bill Evans and Lennie Tristanto gives me reason to believe this is probably his best recording to date.
Gonzalo is accompanied by five extraordinary musicians featuring bassistMatt Brewer, drummer Marcus Gilmore, and percussionist Pedro “Pedtrito”Martinez with special guest and native Cuban Ignacio Berrora on drums also esteemed guitarist Lionel Loueke supply the gifts, talent and precision on Gonzalo’s latest project on 5Passion.
Once I listen, and re-focused my thoughts the opening lines and phrases on “Nueva Cabana” the melodies grew on me with its intoning utterances shaped by its unbridled complexity. With optimism underscored with Gonzalo’s uncanny approach to telling his version of story with unmatched intricacies of modern jazz and improvisation unlike his colleagues. In fact, his melodically exquisite tenor expressed on “Time Remembered” was originally pened by piano master Bill Evans. Gonzalo’s delicate voice echoes the sentiments of Evans immediately. For the moment, like a gust of wind he unveils quite voicings through shaded octaves of lush and transparent tones with brilliance.
The ensemble sets a new standard in modern jazz with the hypnotic “Fifty.” Pen by Rubalcaba this infectious groove features non-other than international guitar sensation Lionel Loueke. The band digs deep to release some seriously tasty beats, riffs and pulsating rhythms that are simply off the rector-scale sonically.
Known for his intuitive playing, vision and acclaimed writing skills the soulful Gonzalo and company irresistible interplay are explore on “Anthem and Oshun.” The stretch their preverbal voices by communicating with flurries of transcending melodies, rhythms and brogue of unpredictable tones are manifested from the center outward on these limpid compositions.
Disc II rolls out with a Paul Bley composition titled “Moor.” With much anticipation, Gonzalo accompanied by the fearless ensemble cease the opportunity to intercede with their collective voices and cry out with a symphony of abstract and improvisation squawks gain ground and allows space for the art of swing to intervene and flush out any unknown obscurities.
“Son XXI” written by bimodal composer Enrique Ubieta enters through the gate of stories without words in samba chant with a parade of percussive and rhythmically challenging tones exceed the boundaries yet the tempo remains atoned to Afro-Cuban rumba musings without missing a beat.
Guitarist Lionel Loueke pens the lyrical “Alagia.” Very few guitarists are expressive as Loueke as soloist and composer, his timbre on this song oozes with alluring harmonics ordained by his imaginative artistry. Like most songs here, the focal point is clearly measured by the sobering temperature of this culture retains the wealth of its expressive tonality that’s fresh, stimulating and intriguing.
The ubiquitous pearls of “Lennie’s Pennies” follows, meanwhile the ensemble gains momentum led by Gonzalo’s virtuosity on piano and complex arrangement. Picture this, his fingers dance with singular, unhurried scales and shifting bop sequences shape this ten-plus minute gem to reveal a stunning piece of artistry.
Rubalcaba revisits “Oshun (the short version)” to conclude this picturesque collection of music. Even after the first episode of “Oshun,” you can’t help but be liberated by this gem knowing it is snapshot of his multi-culture lineage where percussion, rhythm and extensive drumming are the centerpiece on this “folkloric” canvas sprayed with every aspect of his Cuban heritage is totally unique listening experience.
With “XXI Century,” pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba consummate voice progresses through the conduit of his expansive vision, maturity and unyielding passion clearly gives him an advantage as pianist, composer and producer. This album documents a healthy balance of modern jazz, Latin and accessible improvisation for jazz enthusiast to quench their ongoing thirst and savor the superior compositions and masterful musicianship showcased here is simply unparalleled.
Highly Recommend by Rob Young | Urban Flux Media | Review
Meet the Band:
Gonzalo Rubalcaba – piano
Pedro “Pedtrito” Martinez – percussion
Matt Brewer –bass
Marcus Gilmore & Ignacio Berrora (special appearance) – drums
Lionel Loueke – guitar [guest performance]
Track Listing: Disc I
1) NUEVA CUBANA
2) TIME REMEMBERED
Track Listing: Disc II
2) SON XXI
4) LENNIE’S PENNIES
5) OSHUN (SHORT VERSION)
Produced by Gonzalo Rubalcaba – 5 Passion | Visit, www.g-rubalcaba.com for more information, Bio, and Tour Dates.