Published September 6-2012

Gonzalo Rubalcaba XXI Century (5Passion Productions)

A sunny, optimistic outlook shines throughout XXI Century, the latest from accomplished pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Featuring compositions that stretch across multiple cultures and 50 years of music history, the album ranges from the percussive incantations of Rubalcaba’s “Oshun” to a delicately impressionistic take on Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered” and an impressive pianism on Lennie Tristano’s “Lennies Pennies.” Bassist Matt Brewer contributes the beautiful shimmer of “Anthem,” and guest guitarist Lionel Loueke (who’s on everybody’s recordings these days) adds his funky “Alafia” to the mix. Rubalcaba’s dance-worthy “Nueva Cubana,” which features a memorable guest appearance from guitarist Gary Galimidi, mixes Cuban roots with modern jazz harmonies. But it’s Enrique Ubieta’s “Son XXI” that most effectively summons Rubalcaba’s Afro-Cuban heritage. Marcus Gilmore provides the percussive ground on which the album dances, with assistance from guests Ignacio Berroa and Pedro “Pedrito” Martinez on a couple of tracks. It’s a satisfying journey from beginning to end, and the two-disc package contains extras that only your computer’s optical drive will reveal.