Nocturna consagración

Charlie Haden y Gonzalo Rubalcaba fusionan jazz y bolero en ‘Nocturne’, un disco para coleccionar.

por ARSENIO RODRíGUEZ, Barcelona
En 2002 Gonzalo Rubalcaba, a quien por años se le resistió el premio Grammy, se ha visto recompensado con un par de ellos.

En septiembre la entrega de los Grammys Latinos dio la alegría a los seguidores del jazz cubano cuando Bebo Valdés (El Arte del sabor), Chucho Valdés (Canciones inéditas) y el propio Rubalcaba (Supernova) fueron premiados en las diferentes categorías a que estaban nominados. El hecho jerarquiza a la escuela criolla como una de las mejores del mundo. Ello adquiere más relevancia si se añade a la fiesta el disco Nocturne (Verve, 2001), que se alzó en los Grammys americanos como mejor disco de latin jazz, y donde puede encontrarse nuevamente a Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Junto con Charlie Haden definió el repertorio del CD, puso canciones suyas, realizó la producción conjunta y, como era de esperar, tocó en todas las piezas como sólo él sabe hacerlo desde que dejó la percusión para dedicarse al piano. Es bastante injusto que en la portadilla sólo aparezca Haden (seguramente una estrategia de mercado para encausar la placa en el ámbito inglés).

Es la primera vez que Gonzalo y Haden hacen un monotemático de boleros, y el disco demuestra que el jazz está muy cerca del género romántico por excelencia. Particularmente para ambos músicos, Nocturne es el capítulo último de una amistad de más de quince años, que comenzó cuando se conocieron en el Festival de Jazz de La Habana. Rubalcaba sólo tenía 23 años.

En el disco hay tres versiones de piezas creadas, inicialmente, por autores que las generaron bajo la influencia del filin; una de ellas, El borde del mundo, nada menos que de Martín Rojas. Aquí Gonzalo diserta con una introducción influenciada por los maestros de la pianística europea clásica, aunque luego se moverá en el tango con fuerte presencia del bolero. La segunda pieza del CD, No empeñes más, de Marta Valdés, es un típico bolero-filin, como apunta sabiamente Leonardo Acosta. En él puede apreciarse que Gonzalo, como en su anterior Supernova, ha ganado suficiente con el silencio y las suaves modulaciones en sus solos con la mano derecha, lo que antes se empeñaba en demostrar con buenas furias y notable virtuosismo. La tercera pieza filin —que cierra el CD—, Contigo en la distancia, viene en un kit-dual con otro tema (En nosotros, de Tania Castellanos). En la versión que ambos músicos hacen de aquella destaca, de manera casi sobrenatural, la manera en que Charlie Haden dice nota a nota, con el bajo acústico, cada silaba del comienzo de la canción; los solos que ejecuta lo introducen inapelablemente en el Olimpo de los mejores bajistas de su generación, a la altura de Charles Mingus o Ron Carter.

Los boleristas cubanos clásicos no están olvidados en este acercamiento, y ahí está la figura de Osvaldo Farrés —con una de sus excelentes piezas, Tres palabras— para demostrarlo. Farrés, con Acércate más, Toda una vida, Quizás quizás, Para que sufras o Madrecita, en su momento aseguró la inmortalidad de Nat King Cole y Antonio Machín, entre otros. La economía de recursos literarios conseguida en Tres palabras es la que imita Gonzalo en la extensión de su particular versión, quizá rindiéndole merecido homenaje al autor.

No sólo se nutre el disco con boleros y filin nacionales: el bolero mejicano está representado con Yo sin ti, de Arturo Castro, Nocturnal, de Sabre Marroquin/José Mujica, Noche de ronda, de María Teresa Lara y, cómo no, El Ciego, de Armando Manzanero.

Con tales argumentos la placa, corte tras corte, se va metiendo en los bares, en la noche, en el amor, en cada cuerpo… ofreciendo gratas sorpresas: el violín del uruguayo Federico Britos, que por momentos parece sacado de un disco de Django Reinhardt, o el saxo de Joe Lovano, con un apreciable solo en Moonlight, sin olvidar al guitarrista Pat Metheny en Noche de ronda. Por último, hay que prestar especial atención al maravilloso acompañamiento que hace Ignacio Berroa, quien a veces usa las escobillas de la batería como maracas. Como recomendó el propio Charlie Haden en Barcelona, compren el disco, grábenlo de algún amigo o bájenlo en MP3, que bien merece el gusto.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba invited by Lorraine, Gillespie’s widow, to attend the funeral as one of the pallbearers

Rubalcaba, Gonzalo

Rubalcaba, Gonzalo , Cuban jazz pianist; b. Havana, Cuba, May 27, 1963. His father, Guillermo, was an acclaimed Cuban pianist who played with the orch. of innovator Enrique Jorrin; his grandfather, Jacobo, penned some of the most beloved danzones of Cuban ballroom society. Despite the U.S. embargo, friends used to smuggle records in and he heard American radio. While he studied classical music at the Amadeo Roldan Cons. in Havana, at home he listened to Art Tatum, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie. By the time he was a teenager, he and friends had formed a jazz-oriented band. He eventually performed in Europe and South America. In 1985, Dizzy Gillespie heard Rubalcaba in Havana and pronounced him the greatest jazz pianist he had encountered in more than a decade. Gillespie tried to bring him to N.Y., but the State Department denied his visa. Wynton Marsalis, Charlie Haden and others lobbied in his favor, but several years passed. He played the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1992. When Gillespie died in January 1993, he was invited by Lorraine, Gillespie’s widow, to attend the funeral as one of the pallbearers, and was allowed a visa to attend the funeral. Later that year, he played a concert at Lincoln Center to great critical acclaim. His move to the Dominican Republic in the mid-1990s made it possible for him to get paid for working in the U.S. (since he was a non-resident of Cuba). The fact that he has clung to his Cuban citizenship and refused to seek asylum in the U.S. has drawn vitriol from some reporters, audiences, anti-Castro lobbyists, and many Cuban émigrés. He moved his family to Fla. with the permission of the Cuban government. He made his Chicago-area debut 1997 at Ravinia.

RUBALCABA FINDS A HOME BEYOND CUBA

Article from: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Article date: October 22, 1999
Author: Raether, Keith

Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba has every reason to think of himself as a stranger in a strange land in Florida, where he and his family now make their home.

When he settled in Fort Lauderdale in 1996, Rubalcaba incurred the wrath of Cuban exiles for his failure to denounce Fidel Castro. When he first performed in Miami, hundreds of Cuban American demonstrators greeted him with anti-Castro mud-slinging.

To add aggravation to insult, the more Rubalcaba saw of mainstream America, the more he saw a society without fear or self-control. He feared for his wife and children. He longed for limits on “life in the candy store.”

“I struggle most with the human issues and family values in America,” Rubalcaba said through his manager and interpreter, Juan Quesada. “Life has always moved me wherever I’ve needed to go, and I feel comfortable (in the States) now. I still have in my heart where I come from, but I don’t feel like a stranger here at all.”

Dizzy Gillespie discovered the 36-year-old piano phenom on a trip to Havana in 1985, and their bond was immediate and indivisible. Rubalcaba was a pallbearer at Gillespie’s funeral, and the late trumpeter remains “the best gift that life has presented to me.”

Rubalcaba is content to let his music mend fences. His trio, which includes bassist Jeff Chambers and drummer Ignacio Berroa, will be in concert Sunday as part of the 11th annual Earshot Jazz Festival. Tickets and information: 206-547-9787.

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

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