Jazz Times 

7/26/17

 

…. the pairing of Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba worked beautifully. They overcame the limitations of the piano duo by an obvious means: They are both world-class solo pianists and they mostly played separately, only coming together for occasional interludes. Rubalcaba is versatile. The last time he played Umbria, in 2014, he appeared with drummers Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and Giovanni Hidalgo in a sustained explosion of rhythmic virtuosity. In 2017 he played an achingly poignant version of Johnny Mercer’s “My Love and I” (“Mi Amor y Yo,” in Rubalcaba’s introduction). It was so soft he barely touched the keys, but it was no problem in the Arena, because 2,000 people sat absolutely rapt and silent. It was like an unfolding of the heart, closely held, from emotion, and gradually released and shared, from emotion. Valdés is one of the living masters of a genre he helped create, Afro-Cuban jazz. When he applied his rhythmic passion to a piece like Bill Evans’ “Waltz for Debby,” it was a new revelation of universal meaning in a famous song….