Nippertown Jazz 2k: CD Picks of the Week By J Hunter

XXI Century
Thankfully, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba returns to to the KISS Principle (“Keep It Simple, Stupid!”) by eschewing the large ensemble on the too-complex Avatarin favor of a raucous quartet, occasionally augmenting the proceedings with stellar guests like guitarist Lionel Loueke and drummer/fellow Havana native Ignacio Berroa. “Nueva Cubana” is a resounding announcement that Carnaval is now in session, and Pedrito Martinez’s blistering percussion is just a sample of what he’s going to give Nippertown at his upcoming performances at the Albany Riverfront and A Place for Jazz. (Martinez also adds galvanizing vocals to the brightly mystical “Oshun.”) Rubalcaba’s original “Fifty” is funky like a monkey; Loueke’s Afro-centric “Alafia” is sneaky cool; and Rubalcaba gets his bebop on with Lennie Tristano’s “Lennie’s Pennies.” Rubalcaba’s not done with complex music, though, even though Paul Bley’s rubato-heavy “Moore” and bassist Matt Brewer’s swirling “Anthem” comes in relatively bite-sized pieces we didn’t get on Avatar. Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered” also gets an extended reboot that plumbs the depths of Rubalcaba’s massive creativity. Less is definitely more, and since XXI Century is a 2-disc set, we get more of that less, and that’s a good thing!