From “Breath of Life” by Kalamu ya Salaam
- July 25th, 2011
- Posted in Critical Acclaim . Fé . Magazine/Newspapers/WebNews Articles and Reviews
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There are quiet places inside of all of us. Many of us are afraid of those spaces. Afraid of the thoughts we think when we are still and silent for extended stays when we are our own and only accomplice. Afraid too of what we feel when we are feeling all that is us, all that is the interior, the insides of whoever we are.
Do you know yourself? Are you comfortable with who you are? Could you spend hours alone and not go crazy, not reach for you phone, run to your car to go somewhere, grab some munchies to keep from concentrating on the inner hunger that impels you to put something inside of your mouth, a gag to keep from gagging on your own guts.
Most of us don’t meditate, don’t dare approach, not to mention actually cross, our personal mountains whose rough terrain, abyss-like cliffs, and rarified higher heights take strength and endurance to literally overcome, cross over to our other sides, the others inside us.
If you are ready, Gonzalo will spirit you there.
I hesitate to simply call this music, or jazz, or even solo piano. On one level that is certainly what this is, but on another level this is no mere elevator or escalator mechanically moving us about, this is journeying on another level taking us deep into the tips of ourselves, the pits of ourselves—alter as in the Latin alter = high or deep, depending on how it is used.
Really this is spirit fuel assisting your flight into the who of you, the what of you, all the memory, reactions, envisionings, thoughts and feelings, many of which are far, far beyond just whatever happens to be here and now. Each of our DNAs carry ancestor songs, whisperings, some strong, some weak, barely there, but there, always influencing every future movement, meaning.
We never leave who we are even if we become someone else. We just have added another layer, a different variation, a new vibration to the human chain that each of us is and extends. If we spawn no children, the specific chain stops with us but even so in how we have interacted with others we have passed on some of ourselves beyond ourselves.
We talk glibly about eternal soul, about heaven and that other place, don’t wait until you die to think you will discover who you are. You won’t discover anything more than you discovered when you were alive. Now is the time to go into the self.
The ancient inscription said: know thyself.
These sounds that Gonzalo produces are physical in the sense that he strikes levers that move hammers against taunt strings. He knows how to time the strikes, how to coordinate the strikes. The dynamics of the strikes; how hard to hit, how soft to caress. The sensitivity to create all of this on the fly guided by his own inner spirit is his awesome artistry.
Sometimes, like with “Imagine,” “Here’s That Rainy Day,” or “Con Alma”part of what Gonzalo does will be melodies and harmonic fragments that are familiar, but a lot of this is nuevo (i.e. new), a newness that comes up as he dips his piano bucket into the well of his own being. In this case his waters include portraits of his three children: Joan, Joao, and Yolanda.
If you have an undisturbed space and time where/when you can experience these sounds you will be rewarded with a glimpse of your emotional innards, the life pictures on the walls of your personality, exhibits that most of us seldom consciously consider. Through the fog of our judgments about what we feel about what we have experienced and about what we are, through this thicket of contradictions, revulsions, obsessions, social mal/adjustments, settlements and accommodations, little and large lies, as well as deep and sometimes starling truths, all of this will blink like a far off lighthouse in the night fog, a light calling us home, showing us the way to the harbor of our actual selves.
Can we cross the danger waters, navigate through the social swamps? Can we, are we willing to journey to the self, are we willing to embrace the self? The deepest beauty of jazz is that it is a genre that consciously and constantly pushes the artist and the listener to go naked, strip down and reveal the self for whoever, whatever that self may be. You will know when you are looking at your true self, even if you initially refuse to recognize yourself, even as you ask that eternal question that life conditions occasionally impel even the most stoic of us to utter: is this me? Is this me saying what I am saying, doing what I am doing, thinking what I am thinking, feeling… is “this” (whatever “this happens to be), is this me?
Look closer. Listen harder.
Spend time with yourself.
Gonzalo’s music can provide hours and hours of indescribable insights. Be gentle with these moments. Do not rush. Only the slow, only those who take time, will know all that there is to know about the person trying to do the knowing. No matter what we think about, it is still us thinking and therefore in the process of discovery it is us that ultimately matters most. Who we are is way, way before and far, far beyond what we think.
Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Cuban pianist, Havana born. 1963. Has made a bunch of recordings, won Grammy awards. Known as a daunting technician, able to play faster than most people can think. Full of rhythms, encyclopedic in his knowledge of harmonies, endless in his melodic inventions. Master of standards, shaman of folkloric music, original both as a composer and an interpreter. Everything he is and has been has come together in a masterful recording that indicates not just where Gonzalo is at, but indeed points towards where he is headed.
It is my great pleasure to announce the formation of my very own record label, 5Passion. As we charge into the future, technology continues to evolve… and in many cases, continues to democratize many of the processes of major industries once reserved only for those with significant capital. These days, owning your own world-class studio and distributing your work in the virtual world is a very real and attractive possibility. These developments are “music to my ears,” as the opportunity to produce and distribute lots of great music and video with only the quality of the product in mind is at hand.
Fé is an exquisitely recorded solo outing. Rather than play a bunch of standards or even undertake a presentation of originals, this is more like a personal recital, literally a sonic stream of sub/consciousness during which he just plays. And plays, and plays. Songs come out sometimes in fragments that coalesce at the end, others are ideas formally developed. The interpretations of songs by others is idiosyncratic and mind altering, often out of tempo ruminations.
When I first heard Fé I was a bit put off, wanting to hear more of the Gonzalo magic I knew he could do with songs I already knew. But Fé is another kind of magic. This is the music that takes you to places you might not know that you actually know, i.e. places inside yourself consisting of all the places you’ve been, physical places, emotional places, imaginary places, all the places.
I should not have been surprised, Gonzalo has done this before. “Here’s That Rainy Day,” “Night Fall,” and “Beseme Mucho” are taken from his early 1997 album Solo and the reveal a similar approach.
—Kalamu ya Salaam