Article from: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Article date: October 22, 1999
Author: Raether, Keith

Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba has every reason to think of himself as a stranger in a strange land in Florida, where he and his family now make their home.

When he settled in Fort Lauderdale in 1996, Rubalcaba incurred the wrath of Cuban exiles for his failure to denounce Fidel Castro. When he first performed in Miami, hundreds of Cuban American demonstrators greeted him with anti-Castro mud-slinging.

To add aggravation to insult, the more Rubalcaba saw of mainstream America, the more he saw a society without fear or self-control. He feared for his wife and children. He longed for limits on “life in the candy store.”

“I struggle most with the human issues and family values in America,” Rubalcaba said through his manager and interpreter, Juan Quesada. “Life has always moved me wherever I’ve needed to go, and I feel comfortable (in the States) now. I still have in my heart where I come from, but I don’t feel like a stranger here at all.”

Dizzy Gillespie discovered the 36-year-old piano phenom on a trip to Havana in 1985, and their bond was immediate and indivisible. Rubalcaba was a pallbearer at Gillespie’s funeral, and the late trumpeter remains “the best gift that life has presented to me.”

Rubalcaba is content to let his music mend fences. His trio, which includes bassist Jeff Chambers and drummer Ignacio Berroa, will be in concert Sunday as part of the 11th annual Earshot Jazz Festival. Tickets and information: 206-547-9787.