JAZZ PIANIST RUBALCABA INSPIRED BY THE LEGENDARY DIZZY GILLESPIE

Article from:The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA) Article date:October 25, 2001
Byline: ED CONDRAN THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT

ONE OF jazz great Dizzy Gillespie’s passions was Latin music. The legendary trumpeter particularly loved Afro-Cuban rhythms, which he incorporated into his bop sound during the late ’40s. Because of his fascination with the infectious style of music, Gillespie visited Cuba many times over the years.
During a 1985 stop, Gillespie, who loved to discover new talent, saw an intriguing young artist performing in Havana – jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Rubalcaba, who was 22 at the time, was already an accomplished musician. Rubalcaba had honed his skills by studying classical piano from 1971 to 1983. By that point, he was touring Europe frequently.
Gillespie was impressed by Rubalcaba’s considerable chops. He asked the pianist if he would play with him the following evening.
“He gave me some music which had a lot of notes,” Rubalcaba said. “It was difficult music. He said, “Can you learn that and play for me the following evening?’ I told him I didn’t think so. He joked that “We’ll stay up all night practicing. ”
Rubalcaba performed with Gillespie the next night, and the pair hit it off. Gillespie invited Rubalcaba to perform in America on several occasions, but the trip was blocked each time. The first time Rubalcaba stepped on U.S. soil was in 1992, when a visa was granted so that he could attend Gillespie’s funeral.
After recording six well-received studio albums, Rubalcaba crafted 1993’s “Diz,” a tribute to Gillespie. The album also gave tips of the cap to bop giants Charlie Parker and Charles Mingus. Rubalcaba revamped a number of jazz standards by reharmonizing chord structures and adding his own dense style to the mix.
Rubalcaba earned notice in the States. By 1996, he had established residency in Florida.
“It was a process, but lawyers and Blue Note (his label) helped me get here,” Rubalcaba said during a telephone interview from his Coral Springs home. “I’m very pleased to be here. Growing up in Cuba, all you hear is negativity when it comes to America. But I love it here.”
Rubalcaba, 38, has settled in nicely in his new country and released a number of strong albums, such as 1999’s lauded “Inner Voyage.”
The prolific performer is touring behind his latest album, “Supernova.” The title of the disc belies its content. “Supernova” is a spare, introspective effort. In the past Rubalcaba, who will play Friday and Saturday at the American Theatre in Hampton, has incorporated many notes into his music.
That initial encounter with Gillespie apparently had a huge impact. “Supernova” is full of irresistible rhythms, loads of heart, and a subtlety that has been missing from much of the pianist’s music.
“This is a different record for me,” Rubalcaba said. “It’s my most ambitious record. I wanted to make an album that is balanced and to push myself, and I accomplished that.”

Young Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Dizzy Gillespie

Gonzalo Rubalcaba 1992 Fuji Jazz Festival

Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker

Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong play “Umbrella Man” on the Jackie Gleason Show

DIG! Magazine Winnipeg November/December 2010: Anat Cohen Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Phantasm Written by: Niall Bakkestad-Legare

In 1995, the Cuban-born pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba was booked for a week at Yoshi’s Nitespot in Oakland, California when the U.S. State Department refused to grant visas to his drummer and bassist. It just so happened that saxophonist Joe Lovano was trying to book the club for the same week. The club’s owner arranged for the two leaders to play the gig as a duo, and that lucky accident led to their wonderful studio recording, Flying Colors.

Even if the two musicians are from different countries and generations, they have very similar backgrounds. Both were born into musical families: Gonzalo’s father was a pianist and his two brothers musicians, and Lovano’s father was the Cleveland saxophone legend Tony “Big T” Lovano. Both are heavily steeped in the jazz tradition. Both have an affinity for the drums, and both are constantly searching for new sounds. Their compatibility has allowed them to create an album filled with musical chemistry, boundless creativity and sonic magic. Lovano says, “The whole process was comfortable and free. It was one of the most creative sessions I’ve ever been a part of.”

Flying Colors lives up to its title: it’s an array of vivid pigments splashed on canvas by this stunning duo. Whether it is Scott Lefaro’s “Gloria’s Step” or the free improvisations of “Mr. Hyde,” this album is dedicated to the search for rhythmic interplay in the absence of an explicit pulse. Silence is a crucial element in this album too, surrounding haunting unisons (such as in Ornette Coleman’s “Bird Food”), extended solos, and shifts in song structure. It seems more to me that the two musicians are challenging the need for structure, pulse, harmony, and melody, and inventing each piece from the ground up.
This strategy means that each selection becomes unique and atmospheric. In Paul Motian’s “Phantasm,” the improvisatory interaction sounds like a contemporary classical piece. Lovano creates some great, haunting melodies on the alto clarinet before Rubalcaba assumes the lead, while Lovano supports him with brushwork on drums. As a listener, you’re mesmerized.

Lovano and Rubalcaba seem to be proving that jazz is at its foundation a rhythmical language, and that whether the song be structured or free, unison or counterpoint, consonant or dissonant, two musicians can communicate with each other to create something transcendental: spontaneous art. As Lovano says, “The music poured out of us as though we were one… [It] just unfolded into a most beautiful tapestry of color.”

A lot has happened in the thirteen-odd years since the release of Flying Colors. Joe Lovano continues to sit atop of the jazz world, spearheading thrilling collaborations and experimenting with formats (like his double-drummer quintet). Gonzalo Rubalcaba has gone on to collaborate with Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Chick Corea and many others. Lovano has dazzled Winnipeg audiences, but Rubalcaba has yet to perform here. I, for one, would be thrilled to hear this outstanding pianist in person!

Dizzy Gillespie Quintet – Tin Tin Deo

Jazznights Stuttgart 2001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STUTTGART. Schon vor seiner Deutschlandtournee gab es mal wieder Presserummel um Chick Corea. Die Terroranschläge am 11. September müsse man “mit Musik aufarbeiten”. ließ er in einem Presseagentur-Interview verlauten. Er wolle nach den ersten Depressionen “weiter spielen, um die Menschen zu bewegen”. Auch in Stuttgart bleibt der mittlerweile 60-Jährige ein gern gesehener Gast, obwohl er als prominentes Scientologen-Mitglied 1990 nicht bei der mit öffentlichen Geldern gesponserten Leichtathletik-Weltmeisterschaft im kulturellen Rahmenprogramm auftreten durfte. Immerhin konnte vor geraumer Zeit – trotz aller Ängste vor der mysteriösen Hubbard-Organisation – das baden-württembergische Jugendjazzorchester sogar in den politisch-heiligen Hallen des Landtags den Corea-Welthit “Spain” intonieren. Und nun kooperiert der US-Amerikaner noch mit einem fidelen Künstler aus Castros Kuba….

Im Beethovensaal der Stuttgarter Liederhalle präsentierte sich Chick Corea zunächst einträchtig mit seinem Kollegen Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Man kennt und schätzt den am 27. Mai 1963 in Havanna geborenen Pianisten als einen überaus

wendigen Virtuosen, der mit seiner stupenden Technik stets Erstaunen auszulösen vermag. Wie etliche andere Pianisten (man denke nur an den Miles-Davis-Kompagnon Herbie Hancock) hat auch Chick Corea einst eine ausgiebige elektronifizierte Fusion-Phase hinter sich und erfreut sich nunmehr am großen Flügel an der reinen Akustik. Immer wieder begeisterte Corea mit seinem “Acoustic Trio” samt Kontrabass und Schlagzeug. Mit Herbie Hancock und dem Vibrafonisten Gary Burton ging er attraktive Duo-Verbindungen ein. Nun also die Zusammenarbeit mit Rubalcaba.

Vierhändig an zwei Flügeln eingangs ein Tango, den Chick Corea seiner 91-jährigen Mutter widmete (eine Rumba für den Vater Armando und seine “Children Songs” komplettierten an diesem Konzertabend den familiären Themen-Rahmen). Nicht scharfkantig, sondern eher weich im Timbre und moderat im Tempo schritt dieser argentinische Tanz einher. Elastisch und agogisch gingen beide Pianisten mit den Metren um – im Team mit Bass und Schlagzeug wäre eine derartige Musizierweise “quasi una fantasia” schlecht möglich gewesen. Im kommunikativen Doppel schufen Chick Corea und Gonzalo Rubalcaba ein gemeinsames Produkt, also keine Spur von einer hitzigen “piano battle”. Die relaxten Virtuosen ergingen sich in zärtliche Lyrismen.

Mit beindruckender Subtilität absolvierte Rubalcaba sodann seinen Solo-Part. Bereits bei seiner ersten Ballade schien J.S. Bach durchzuschimmern, und gerne praktizierte der Kubaner kontrapunktisch verknüpfte Linienführungen. Die rasantesten Läufe, meist mehr piano als forte, ließ er in selbstverständlicher Leichtigkeit dahinperlen . Schließlich streifte auch Gonzalo Rubalcaba die konventionelle Funktionsharmonik und kreierte eine Musik fernab aller orthodoxen Genre-Grenzen. Der Jazz in seinem traditionellen Sinn musste hierbei verblassen.

Mehr Blues-Feeling brachte nach der Pause Chick Corea in seinen solistischen Improvisationen ein. Mit dem doch recht frei gestalteten Standard “Round Midnight” erwies der arrivierte Miles-Davis-Alumnus dem verqueren Thelonious Monk seine Reverenz, mit “Yellow Nimbus” ehrte er den Flamenco-Gitarristen Paco de Lucia. Zu Noten und zur Lesebrille griff der arrivierte Jazzer, als er zwei friedfertige Préludes des russischen Komponisten Aleksandr Nikolajewitsch Skrjabin (1871 – 1915) interpretierte. Allenthalben im nur zur Hälfte gefüllten Beethovensaal eine heile Musikwelt, wo doch genau zur gleichen Zeit die ersten Raketen und Bomben in Afghanistan Krieg machten.

(Oktober 2001)

 

 

 

Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Richard Galliano – Casalmaggiore 2011

Jazz by Michael Dvorak

http://www.fotovisura.com/user/DvorakFoto/view/jazz-2

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