Supernova of Sound by Susan Pineda for Adelante

Fire and energy reunite in an explosion that expands light and silences sound …for an instant. melodic glimmers emanate from this nebula with just one star: Gonzalo Rubalcaba is the master of his own cosmos, although he belongs to a galaxy of great musical constellations. The musician whose father, Guillermo Rubalcaba, helped introduce the world to the cha-cha-cha, and whose grandfather, Jacobo Gonzalez Rubalcaba, composed the famous”El Cadete (The Cadet),” has not let the light of his rising comet go dim. His most recent production, Supernova; won the Latin Grammy for the best Latin jazz album of 2002. His collaboration with Charlie Haden in Nocturne, which also won a Grammy this year, is praiseworthy as well. With classic training, this  Cuban pianist and composer took an early turn toward jazz, and from that moment, his career has continued to ascend.

“Supernova” is another step forward ,” said Rubalcaba in a recent telephone interview with Adelante. Because without moving forward, he added, “it’s like standing still in time.  In the twenty years that Rubalcaba has created his sound, he has expanded the musical firmament. This piano virtuoso continues to sound the enduringly rich depths of the music of his fatherland. “Cuban music continues to need formal spaces, and not in a way that’s cliche,” he observed. Convinced that music is neither created nor invented, but restructured and evolved, Rubalcaba took the hits of yesteryear - the beloved “Alma Mia (My soul)” of Maria Grever, the unforgettable “El Manicero (The Peanut Vendor)” and the unequaled “EI Cadete,” – and sent them into a fresh orbit. His sparkle· poesn’t hide behind the incandescence of these classic stars, however, but proceeds from a unique source with its own light resulting·in a synergy between the genius of the past and the present. “The challenge of taking things on again that have already passed their peak, is to seek.a reason for keeping them alive,” he explained.  This reason, which Rubalcaba has managed to balance with a precise dexterity, dwells in the symbiosis between the knowledge of yesterday a the exploration of tomorrow. To revolve around the richness of Cuban and Latin American rhythms. and return to a classical axis, forms Rubalcaba’s universal style. And that’s because it is a minimalist musical expression given that the essence of minimalism is not the scarcity of details and decorations, but the abundance of space. Rubalcaba provides this space, enough to ponder and to set afloat in the periphery of our consciousness. The whisper and the explosion of the keys exquisitely move one toward the insomnia of the subconscious. Columbia will form part of this exploration when Rubalcaba lights up the spirits, stands time still and explodes in a carnival of melody on Dec. 5, in an event organized by the “We Always Swing” Jazz Series in an annual fundraising concert dedicated to the late Dr. Carlos Perez-Mesa, a tireless collaborator with the series. “All the places where one finds oneself contain a mystery, Rubalcaba observed, with respect to his imminent visit to Columbia. “One never knows what will happen.” Meanwhile, Rubalcaba’s phosphorescence will continue to live as long as this vital star continues to rise with each new day. “May the music awaken, just as I awaken every day,” he concluded

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: More Than Virtuosity by Peter Monagham Earshot Jazz November 2004

Make no mistake: few jazz pianists, today, or at any earlier time, could hold a candle to the brilliant Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s gigantic virtuosity. But, speaking from his home in Florida, the soft-spoken, thoughtful pianist says that he wishes critics would not be so fixated on that aspect of his playing. Jazz fans, he notes, have welcomed his music. “There have been many people supporting what I’m doing, people in connection with my career, looking for the next album, the next step,” he says. Their reaction, in his estimation from the bandstands and stages, has been to his music, in all its facets. “But on the professional side, with writers and critics – this is not true of everybody – but part of that professional side is that they’ve been insisting too much – this is my opinion – there has been too much emphasis on virtuosity, which is just part of my personality or my training or my development. It is not everything.” “It’s a delicate point,” he continues, “because there are a lot of people who really believe what the critics say, people who have the chance to see a bigger spectrum, not only about myself, but about musicians, in general. The references that people get from critics and writers have been very limited.” He wishes critics would better explicate his music in part because that might put it in better cultural context, he says. That cause was not helped, he says, by the attention that was given in the early 1990s to the outstanding Cuban musicians who were marketed as the Buena Vista Social Club. Says Rubalcaba: “We had to clarify to people that this is not the only side of Cuban music of the last 30 to 40 years. We’re talking about a moment – those musicians used to be famous in Cuba in the ’40s and ’50s.” Don’t get him wrong, he says. “I respect them a lot. 1know a lot of them, I learned from them since I was a teenager in Cuba. Many are friends of my family, especially of my father” (Guillermo, a well-known pianist, too). “But we have to say that they are not part of the contemporary life in Cuba, right now. “So, I see some disconnection in the last 40-50 years of the real evolution of Cuban music, in terms of what people outside of Cuba know about the music in Cuba. “The point is that sometimes when that audience followed Buena Vista and other popular things that became popular outside ofCuba, they don’t find any connection with what you [as in, musicians like him] do with Cuba. Sometimes they think you’re not even Cuban.”

A SPIRITUAL ELEMENT

One element of his music that both critics and audiences can miss, due to this lack of context, he says, is its spirituality. “I was influenced by a lot of Cuban folklore and all the music uses it in rituals. Everything in connection with AfroCuban music is totally in connection with AfroCuban religion.” Folklore and other religion-linked cultural forms “are things I have been listening to since I was a little kid,” he says. “When I went to school - and at home also – I heard all kinds of popular music to dance to.  And finally, I discovered jazz music” He says: “Those were the platforms, the first references that I had as a human being, in my life.” He suspects that it was much easier for Americans to relate to Cuba before the Revolution, and the U.S. embargo. Then, cultural commerce between Cuba and the U.S. was extensive. Thanks to that, jazz was well-known in Cuba during Rubalcaba’s childhood. He became keen on it at about the age of 12, he recalls. “At home we had some old recordings of Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman, Bud Powell, and Erroll Garner. Cuba has been in contact with jazz for a long time. Many Cuban musicians have been involved in a relationship with that musical idiom.” As a young man, he recalls, he avidly followed such players’ careers, and attended their performances. “A few people around me at school, older than me, were already improvising. And I found out that it was the perfect musical space to do some stuff with total freedom. I was very motivated by this.” At music school, he was thoroughly trained in many aspects of popular and Classical music. He possessed, already, the rhythmic command that is such a huge part of the Cuban musical ethos. That, thanks to early studies in both drums and piano. “Everyone involved in music should know a little bit about rhythm,” he suggests. At classical school, they force the students as part of the program to get piano as a complementary instrument. It should be the same with the percussion or rhythm stuff, because it definitely gives musicians more independence not only to know about harmonies, or phrases, or whatever. It’s also good to get into the rhythmic, complex conception, and I had that opportunity, and I think I brought that to my music, to my composing. “As a piano player, I feel totally in connection with what is happening in the rhythm part of the band, especially because I was a drummer.” On the drums, “you have to use your whole body to play,” he says. “The piano is also an instrument where you have to have good concentration in different lines, in different things at the same time, your arms, your legs… It’s like a small orchestra. You have to combine everything, taking into consideration accent, dynamics, everything.” And of course, he adds, “the piano is in some ways part of the percussion family. So we are not talking about two instruments that are far away from each other.”

LIFE IN AMERICA

Rubalcaba left Cuba in 1990, settling first in the Dominican Republic, then in Coral Springs, Florida, in 1996. His arrival in the U.S. was not free of contention. “There was some political reaction from a few Cuban people, part of the Cuban community. They reacted because they speculated about my leaving Cuba, saying I was in connection with the Cuban government, whatever. All kinds of crazy stuff that they used to say.” Despite that, he says, his memories of coming to the U.S. are happy ones. “I had a very warm reception from the American audiences, and that included from some Latin people in the audiences, too.” From musicians, too. “That was the beginning of my close relationship with people like Herbie [Hancock], Chick Corea, Paul Motian, Ron Carter, and there were many others. I was in touch already with Charlie Haden, since the first time he went to Cuba. Also Dizzy Gillespie, when we went to Cuba in 1994. People like Joe Lovano, too. I have a great memory about that.” Naturally, he misses Cuba. “We’re talking socially about two different countries,” he says. “The politics and the economy and social structure in Cuba are totally different from what we experience here in the United States.” But Cuba is different from the whole rest of the world, he says. ”I’m not saying that the way people live there is good or bad. It’s just different, with some positive stuff, and many things that never became what people in Cuba believed in at the beginning of the revolution.” There are “points that should be analyzed and changed,” he diplomatically notes. As a Cuban I would definitely like to see Cuban people have more opportunity to decide, simple things, to decide at any moment that you want to go to Cuba. You could decide to take a plane and go there. This is something that is very simple,  but we cannot practice it in that way.” That is a crucial matter, he says, “because we have family there; our roots are there: we were born there. I think this is not even a privilege; it’s a right.” But, he says, “this is just a side of the big complex Cuban problem. It makes you sometimes feel frustrated, to feel unable to make decisions about your own life as a Cuban.” He foresees a time when relations will be normalized. Then, the most important renewed exchange, he believes, will be cultural – artistic. “This is something that we have lost, unfortunately. And it’s probably the most important side”

Rubalcaba finds the tears in the piano- Boston Globe

By Richard  Dyer

Globe Staff

No musical attraction of the weekend drew a more distinguished audience than the Cuban jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba,

who appeared at the Regattabar with bassist Ron Carter. Among the interested listeners on various nights were jazz historian and musical polymath Gunther Schuller, pianists Andrew Rangell, Russell Sherman, and a host of Sherman’s students; Christopher Lydon, pianophile and host of WBHR’s “The Connection”; Pops conductor laureate John Williams; and BSO music director Seiji Ozawa. This listener will leave praise and analysis of Rubalcaba’s jazz’ invention to better-qualified commentators (including Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Haden) – he is fully aware that the admiration of people from the world of classical music is the kiss of death to people active in or interested in jazz. But it is nevertheless necessary to report that Rubalcaba stands in the company of the great pianists active today in any genre of music-making. Rubalcaba’s numerous recordings document dazzling speed, accuracy, alacrity of attack, and variety of touch – “it has to be the product,” Sherman observes, “of thousands upon thousands of hours practicing the exercises of Czemy and Hanon.” Saturday night at the Regattabar we heard a little of that virtuosity – some octaves, repeated notes, trills, and keyboard-spanning passagework that would convey as much in Liszt or  Chopin as they did in Rubalcaba’s jazz playing. His fleshy fingers have to work to produce a harsh, driving sound, but he can create one when he wants to; he also boasts a singing legato that he creates with his touch, not with the pedal- he employs finger substitution even more than an organist would.

Saturday’s quite in-drawing set with Carter also revealed  another quality, something unique in this listener’s experience of pianists. There is a quality in singing as rare as it is highly prized – “les larmes dans la voix,” the French call it, “tears in the voice.” Claudia Muzio had it, and the young Pavarotti, and, perhaps above all others, Callas, in the second act of “Traviata” 0r the final scene of “Norma.” It is not a quality that one ever expected to hear from a piano or a pianist, but one heard it,  felt it re-peatedly in Rubalcaba’s playing as it delivered its message from heart to heart.

Piano & Keyboard – The 20th Century – November/December 1999

Gonzalo Rubalcaba, an outstanding young jazz pianist, has recently begun to incorporate some characteristics ofhis Cuban roots into his otherwise pure jazz stylings. Jazz, born in America early in the century, has become an international language by the century’s end as artists from other cultures infuse this language with qualities and rhythms that reflect diverse backgrounds.

Jazziz Magazine June 20, 2009

GONZALO RUBALCABA – AVATAR

rubalcaba_avatar

Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Avatar

(Blue Note)

Over the course of his two decades in the jazz swim, consummate Cuban-born pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba has pursued multiple directions and projects, in sync with his restless muse. With his latest, Rubalcaba has assembled a solid band of NYC players – including saxist Yosvany Terry (also of Cuban heritage), trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, bassist Matt Brewer, and volcanic drummer Marcus Gilmore – and thrown them into the artistic fray with minimal rehearsal and preparation. Taking his album title from the renowned NYC studio, the leader is clearly celebrating a New York state of mind and musical intensity, with much to admire in the end result.

From the first minute of the recordings through his solo piano musings opening “Looking in Retrospective,” we’re reminded of his remarkable – even classic? – solo album. But once the band enters the sonic picture, it’s clear that Rubalcaba is embarking on new turf this time, with less of a direct link to his Cuban roots than in earlier ensembles, and with rhythmic assertions reminiscent of such models as Chick Corea’s acoustic bands, the late period Tony Williams quintet work, and M-BASE math funk.

A team player and symbiosis-seeking leader, Rubalcaba himself keeps a fairly humble, integrated role in the band. Terry supplies a few of the tunes, including the snaky-yet-swinging odd-time excursions of “This Is It” and “Hip Side.” Rubalcaba’s brisk original “Infantil,” dedicated to John McLaughlin, gives the pianist a ripe forum for his probity and crystal brilliance at the keyboard. Virtuosic flights aside, though, it may be his burnished reading of Horace Silver’s haunting ballad “Peace” that best illustrates how Rubalcaba has evolved and matured over the years. Here is one deep, and deepening, player, now settled in the uppermost ranks of living jazz pianists.

- Josef Woodard

Il trionfo Italiano di Gonzalo Rubalcaba

12 maggio 2010 Il trionfo italiano di Gonzalo Rubalcaba

di Franco Fayenz

Sei anni or sono, a fine maggio, il club Blue Note di Milano ospitò per alcune sere il pianista cubano Gonzalo Rubalcaba in veste di solista. Fu una rivelazione, almeno dalle nostre parti e per gli ascoltatori più attenti, che si ripetè cinque mesi dopo nei concerti di Musica per Roma. Rubalcaba, che oggi ha 47 anni, non era di certo uno sconosciuto. Figlio d’arte, maturato come pianista e compositore attraverso severi studi classici e poi jazzista per scelta, aveva ottenuto successi in tutto il mondo e vinto un premio Grammy dopo che il contrabbassista Charlie Haden, in tournée a Cuba nel 1986 con la sua Liberation Music Orchestra, lo aveva ascoltato per caso e ne era rimasto entusiasta. Quattro anni più tardi lo portò con sé in Svizzera al Festival di Montreux, in trio con Paul Motian alla batteria, proiettandolo nell’élite internazionale dei musicisti di jazz. Ciò malgrado numerosi critici (anche e soprattutto italiani, si direbbe) non accreditarono mai Rubalcaba di quella marcia in più che fa di un pianista un grande pianista. Ma il motivo, nascosto e inconsapevole, c’era. Rubalcaba, nei concerti e nei dischi, si esibiva sempre in piccoli gruppi, dal duo al sestetto, rinunciando sempre – è naturale che sia così – a una parte della propria personalità per concorrere a formare quella del complesso. Qualcosa, quindi, rimaneva in ombra, e non erano sufficienti un paio di cd solitari a fare piena luce sulla sua vera statura. Nel 2004, a Milano e a Roma, alcuni esperti hanno capito, e di conseguenza hanno cercato di rivedere la sua biografia artistica e di riascoltare con la massima attenzione i suoi cd, però a livello di pubblico non è bastato. Adesso Rubalcaba si è presentato da solo al quindicesimo Festival internazionale del jazz di Vicenza (tuttora in corso). Fra grandi nomi come Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, McCoy Tyner e il batterista ottantacinquenne Roy Haynes poteva perfino passare inosservato. Qualcuno, fingendosi poco al corrente delle sue vicende, gli ha chiesto la ragione della sua solitudine. «E’ una decisione che ho preso qualche tempo fa» ha risposto «e ormai le eccezioni a questa mia regola sono sempre più rare. Mi sono accorto che suonando da soli si è completamente liberi; in due si è meno liberi, figuriamoci in un gruppo. Io lo so bene, e so pure che l’improvvisazione in solo implica maggiori rischi, ma vale la pena di correrli». Il suo concerto ha avuto luogo nell’incanto del Teatro Olimpico, naturalmente senza amplificazione. La bellezza della sala ha sollecitato Rubalcaba a dare il meglio, lo ha detto lui stesso. Ha iniziato in modo quasi sommesso, prendendo quota nota dopo nota. Ha messo in evidenza tecnica, tocco, tatto (le famose tre t del pianista russo Nikita Magaloff), un fraseggio nitido e superbo, velocissimo dove occorreva, e una perfetta indipendenza delle mani. Seguendo una discutibile abitudine, molti gli hanno cercato nel jazz un pianista progenitore. Ma al massimo ce n’è uno solo, per virtuosismo e geniale inventività, ed è il sommo Art Tatum. Verso la fine del concerto è affiorata l’anima neolatina di Rubalcaba in un tema che gli è caro, Besame Mucho, e nelle prodigiose variazioni con cui ha abbellito il poco noto Peanut Vendor. E’ stato un trionfo, e questa volta lo ricorderanno tutti.

12 maggio 2010


Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Profile

Gonzalo Rubalcaba (born May 27, 1963 in HavanaCuba) is a Grammy Award-winning Cuban jazz pianist and composer.[1]

Gonzalo Julio Gonzalez Fonseca was born in Havana, Cuba, May 27, 1963, into a musical family rich in the traditions of the country’s artistic past. During his childhood, in addition to the standard fare of elementary schools, Gonzalo was absorbing his Cuban musical heritage through personal contacts within his family, notably his father, pianist Guillermo Rubalcaba, and leading musicians who were frequent houseguests: Frank Emilio, Peruchin, Felipe Dulzaides and others. He also assimilated through scarce and treasured recordings the tunes and styles of 40’s – 70’s US jazz masters: Thelonius Monk, Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson among pianists; and instrumentalists Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey.

Initially he studied both piano and drums. He began his classical musical training at Manuel Saumell Conservatory at age 9, where he had to choose piano; he moved up to “middle-school” at Amadeo Roldan Conservatory, and finally earned his degree in music composition from Havana’s Institute of Fine Arts in 1983. By that time he was already playing in clubs and music halls in Havana.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba has received 14 Grammy nominations (wining 2 Grammys for Nocturne and Land of the Sun, and 2 Latin Grammys for Solo and Supernova) including four for Jazz Album of the Year (Rapsodia in 1995, Antiguo and Inner Voyage in 1999, and Supernova in 2002). He received the Palme d’Or from the Music Academy in Paris in 1991. He also received 2 “Best Performer” awards for “Suite 4y20″ and “Rapsodia” in 1992 and 1993 respectively. In 2008, Gonzalo was awarded the “Vanguard Award” by The ASCAP Foundation for “charting new directions in Jazz”.

Egrem Studios of Havana was the first to record his music during the early and mid ‘80’s, and these discs are still being released (recently Inicio, an album of piano solos, and Concierto Negro.) With Orquesta Aragon he toured France and Africa in 1980. He introduced his own Grupo Projecto to the North Sea and Berlin Festivals in l985. Beginning in 1986 Gonzalo began recording for Messidor of Frandfurt, Germany, and put out three albums for that label with his Cuban Quartet, Mi Gran Pasion, Live in Havana, and Giraldilla.

In 1986 he had a chance meeting in Havana with bassist Charlie Haden. Through Charlie Haden he came to the attention of Bruce Lundvall president of Blue Note Records, and thus began an association, first with Toshiba/EMI of Japan, and later with Blue Note in the US, which has resulted in the release of eleven discs. In July 1990 he appeared as a surprise guest with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian at the Montreux Festival, Switzerland, released on the CD titled ‘Discovery’). In June 2001 Gonzalo received the SFJAZZ Leaders Circle Laureate Award, and in 2002 he performed as Artist in Residence at Montreal Jazz Festival together with Chucho Valdez.

In 2002, these collaborations brought him both a Latin Grammy for Jazz Album of the Year, Supernova, as well as a joint-Grammy with Charlie Haden for co-production of Nocturne, a Verve release of Cuban and Mexican boleros and ballads.

In 2010, Gonzalo founded his own record label entitled 5Passion with music enthusiast Gary Galimidi. He released his first independent offering on the label entitled “Fé” in November 2010. Gonzalo continues to tour the world as a solo pianist, and as band leader.

Gonzalo married in November 1986, and he and Maria now have three children, ages 14, 17 and 20. The family moved to Santo Domingo in 1992, and then to the US in November 1996. All members of his family are U.S. Citizens, Gonzalo and Maria becoming citizens in December 2003.

Discography

  • Mi Gran Pasion (1987)
  • Live in Havana (1989)
  • Giraldilla (1990)
  • Discovery: Live at Montreux (1990)
  • The Blessing (1991)
  • Images: Live at Mt. Fuji (1991)
  • Suite 4 y 20 (1992)
  • Rapsodia (1992)
  • Imagine (1993)
  • Diz (1993)
  • Concatenacion (1995)
  • Flying Colors (1997) ave Joe Lovano
  • Antiguo (1998)
  • Inner Voyage (1999)
  • Supernova (2001)
  • Inicio (2001)
  • Nocturne (2001) avec Charlie Haden
  • Paseo (2004) avec New Cuban Quartet (nommé aux Latin Grammy Awards 2005)
  • Land Of The Sun (2004) avec Charlie Haden
  • Solo (2006) (nommé aux Latin Grammy Awards 2006)
  • Avatar (2008)
  • Fé (2010)

Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Profil

Gonzalo Rubalcaba est un pianiste de jazz cubain né le 27 mai 1963 à La Havane.

Discographie

  • Mi Gran Pasion (1987)
  • Live in Havana (1989)
  • Giraldilla (1990)
  • Discovery: Live at Montreux (1990)
  • The Blessing (1991)
  • Images: Live at Mt. Fuji (1991)
  • Suite 4 y 20 (1992)
  • Rapsodia (1992)
  • Imagine (1993)
  • Diz (1993)
  • Concatenacion (1995)
  • Flying Colors (1997) ave Joe Lovano
  • Antiguo (1998)
  • Inner Voyage (1999)
  • Supernova (2001)
  • Inicio (2001)
  • Nocturne (2001) avec Charlie Haden
  • Paseo (2004) avec New Cuban Quartet (nommé aux Latin Grammy Awards 2005)
  • Land Of The Sun (2004) avec Charlie Haden
  • Solo (2006) (nommé aux Latin Grammy Awards 2006)
  • Avatar (2008)
  • Fé (2010)

En tant qu’invité

  • Mafarefun (Tony Martinez)
  • Habana Vive (Tony Martinez)
  • Rendezvous in New York (Chick Corea)

Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Perfil

Gonzalo Rubalcaba (La Habana, Cuba, 27 de mayo de 1963) es un pianistacompositorde jazz cubano.

Encuadrado en la era post-bop, Rubalcaba es un virtuoso instrumentista que está considerado como una de las principales figuras del jazz afro-cubano.

Aunque no estuvo motivado en razones políticas, emigró y vivió algunos años en la República Dominicana para más tarde fijar sus residencia definitiva en Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Estados Unidos de América.

Discografía

  • Concierto Negro (1987)
  • Mi Gran Pasion (1987)
  • Live in Havana (1989)
  • Giraldilla (1990)
  • Discovery: Live at Montreux (1990)
  • The Blessing (1991)
  • Images: Live at Mt. Fuji (1991)
  • Suite 4 y 20 (1992)
  • Rapsodia (1992)
  • Imagine (1993)
  • Diz (1993)
  • Concatenacion (1995)
  • Flying Colors (1997) con Joe Lovano
  • Antiguo (1998)
  • Inner Voyage (1999) con Michael Brecker
  • Supernova (2001)
  • Inicio (2001)
  • Nocturne (2001) con Charlie Haden
  • Paseo (2004)
  • Land of the Sun (2004) con Charlie Haden
  • Solo (2006)
  • Avatar (2008)
  • “Fé” (2010)

Gonzalo Rubalcaba- Der Stern aus Kuba

Gonzalo Julio Gonzales Ponseca Rubalcaba (* 27. Mai 1963 in Havanna) ist ein kubanischer Jazz-Pianist. Neben Cuban-Jazz-Rock Projekten pflegt er das klassische Klaviertrio.

Leben

Rubalcaba stammt aus einer musikalischen Familie und ist der Sohn des Pianisten Guillermo Rubalcaba und Enkel des Komponisten Jacobao Gonzales Rubalcaba. Er begann zunächst mit dem Schlagzeugspiel und trat bereits als Fünfjähriger auf. Zwischen 1971 und 1983 unterzog er sich einer klassischen Musikausbildung. Er studierte Perkussion, Klavier und Komposition am Konservatorium und anschließend am Havana Institute of Fine Arts (Abschluss in Komposition 1983). Neben der europäischen Konzertmusik beeinflusste ihn auch die populäre kubanische Musik, in der es Möglichkeiten gab, zu improvisieren und damit seine eigenen musikalischen Ideen einfließen zu lassen. Das erste Mal verreiste Rubalcaba außerhalb Kubas 1980 – mit 17 Jahren – nach Panama und Kolumbien; dann tourte er 1983 mit der berühmten Salsakapelle Orquesta Aragon nach Afrika und Paris. Dizzy Gillespie war der erste nordamerikanische Musiker, zu dem er Kontakt hatte. Als dieser 1985 zum Jazzfestival nach Havanna kam, hatte Rubalcaba Gelegenheit, sehr eng mit ihm zusammenzuarbeiten. Gonzalo heiratete im November 1986. Er und seine Frau Maria zogen 1990 nach Santo Domingo in der Dominikanischen Republik (seit 1996 leben sie in Florida und haben inzwischen drei Kinder von 8, 12 und 14 Jahren). In den USA konnte er erstmals 1993 nach der Fürsprache von Wynton Marsalis und der Witwe Gillespies auftreten.

Werk

Bereits während seines Studiums spielte er mit Frank EmilioChucho ValdesPaquito D’Rivera und Arturo Sandoval. 1985 stellte er seine eigeneGrupo Projecto auf dem North Sea Jazz Festival und dem JazzFest Berlinvor, mit der er an einer Fusion aus Jazzrock, Bop und dem kubanischen Son arbeitete. Seine ersten Aufnahmen machte er in den Egrem-Studios in Havanna Anfang bis Mitte der 80er Jahre (u. a. „Inicio“ – ein Solopiano-Album und „Concierto Negro“). Anfang 1986 veröffentlichte drei Alben auf dem Frankfurter Label „Messidor“ mit seinem Cuban Quartett: „Mi Gran Pasion“, „Live in Havana“, und „Giraldilla“. Diese Aufnahmen zeigen sein Temperament, seine Virtuosität und, dass er zu diesem Zeitpunkt schon vom Jazz beeinflusst war. Die Jazz-Elemente waren damals zwar Teil seiner Musik, doch arbeitete er noch mehr mit Perkussion, Rhythmik – Elementen der afrokubanischen Tradition. 1986 überzeugte Gonzalo Rubalcaba mit seinem Auftritt auf dem Havanna Jazz Festival. Er trat in einem Trio mit Charlie Haden und Paul Motian auf. 1989 holte ihn Charlie Haden zum Jazz Festival Montreal, um wieder in diesem Trio zu spielen. Die Aufnahmen wurden erst 1997 unter dem Titel „The Montréal Tapes: Charlie Haden with Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Paul Motian“ veröffentlicht. Ein späterer Mitschnitt des Trios vom 1990er Jazz Festival Montreux erschien 1991 als „Discovery“. Das zunächst veröffentlichte Studio-Album „The Blessing“ (mit Haden und Jack DeJohnette zeigt bereits den Jazz-Pianisten Gonzalo Rubalcaba. 1992 nahm er mit seiner neuformierten Band Proyecto Latino seine „Suite 4 Y 20“ auf. Im Laufe der nächsten Jahre folgten immer neue Platten wie eine Hommage an Dizzy Gillespie („Diz“) oder die gewaltige Latin-Jazz-Suite „Antiguo“, auf der er die Summe seines bisherigen Spiels und all seiner Einflüsse zog. Auffallend immer wieder seine bestechende, dabei aber wie selbstverständlich wirkende, Virtuosität. Bei genauerem Hinhören fallen aber auch große Besonderheiten in der Melodik auf, einer Melodik, die zwischen den Stilen hin und her springt – beginnend in der Sprache des modernen Jazzs, dann nahtlos in klassische oder kubanische Formen übergeht, als mache der Pianist zwischen ihnen keinen Unterschied. Mit „Inner Voyage“ leistete sich Gonzalo Rubalcaba eine Reise nach innen, forschte nach den Nuancen. In „Nocturne“ – ebenfalls einem sehr intimen Album, nahmen Charlie Haden und Rubalcaba 2002 kubanische und mexikanische Boleros auf – für Rubalcaba eine Art Tribut an die ältere Generation Kubas. 2001 tourte er mit vier verschiedenen Formationen u. a. im Duo mit Chick Corea, 2002 lotete er die Möglichkeiten der Triobesetzung aus im sehr kontrastreichen „Supernova”. Das Album „Paseo“ knüpft nun wieder an seine elektrischeren Fusionausflüge von „Antiguo“ an – Latin-Fusion, improvisierter Modern Jazz, Rückkehr zu den kubanischen Wurzeln.

Stil

Trotz seiner großen Bandbreite gilt Gonzalo Rubalcaba aber heute eindeutig als Jazzpianist. Aufgrund seines afrokubanischen Backgrounds und seiner früheren Percussion-Ausbildung spielt die Rhythmik in seinem Spiel eine wichtige Rolle. Er selbst sieht das Piano auch „als Teil der Percussion-Familie“. Ungeheuren rhythmischen, melodischen und harmonischen Einfallsreichtum zeigte er auch in „The Trio“ mit Brian Bromberg undDennis Chambers, indem er Jazzstandards ‚zerlegt’ und als völlig neue sehr eigene Stücke wieder zusammenbaut.

Diskografie (Auswahl)

  • Live in Havana (1987)
  • Mi Gran Pasion (1989)
  • Giraldilla (1990)
  • Discovery – Live At Montreux (1991)
  • The Blessing (1991)
  • Images – Live At Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival (1991, August 24th & 25th)
  • Diz (1994)
  • The Trio (1997)
  • Flying Colors (1998)
  • Antiguo (1998)
  • Inner Voyage (1999)
  • Supernova (2001)
  • Nocturne (2002)
  • Land Of The Sun (2004)
  • Paseo (2004)
  • Solo (2006)
  • Avatar (2008)
  • Fé (2010)

Der Stern des aus Kuba stammenden Pianisten, Komponisten und Bandleaders Gonzalo Rubalcaba strahlt heute heller denn je, und sein neues Album “Supernova” dürfte die Strahlkraft nur noch weiter erhöhen. Denn auf seiner nunmehr siebten Einspielung für Blue Note läuft der in Havanna geborene, 47  jährige Virtuose wieder einmal zur Hochform auf – mit unvergleichlicher Technik, weit ausholender Imagination und den besten Zutaten aus Jazz und kubanischer Musik.

Rubalcaba vermengt verschiedene Kulturen nicht etwa, weil es gerade im Trend liegt, sondern weil er seit seiner frühen Kindheit wie selbstverständlich mit ihnen konfrontiert wurde. Im Elternhaus zählte es zum guten Ton, sich aus kubanischer Perspektive mit amerikanischen, europäischen, russischen und spanischen Traditionen zu befassen. Hinzu kommt seine nicht unbedeutsame musikalische Ahnenfolge: Rubalcabas Vater etablierte mit anderen Musikern den Cha-Cha-Cha und leitet bis heute die renommierte Formation Charanga Rubalcaba, sein Großvater komponierte die bis heute gern gespielte Prozessionshymne “El Cadete”, deren Thema der Enkel nun zitiert und neu interpretiert.

Er ist einer der Musiker, die in den 90er Jahren viel dazu beigetragen haben, dass die Afro-Kubanische Tanz-Szene aufleben konnte. Rubalcaba ist ein talentierter Pianist, der es schafft, die vorteilhaftesten Elemente derkubanischen Musik mit traditionellem Jazz zu mischen und daraus eine neue Einheit zu schaffen.1963 wurde er in eine Familie von Musikern hinein geboren und begann im Alter von acht Jahren, Klavierspielen zu lernen. Die nächsten zwölf Jahre verbrachte er damit, seine Fähigkeiten an diesem Instrument auszubauen und seine Technik zu verfeinern. In dieser Zeit hatte er Auftritte in Nachtclubs und Bars in Havanna.

1985 entdeckte ihn Dizzy Gillespie und schon 1986 überzeugt er mit seinem Auftritt auf dem Havanna Jazz Festival. Er trat in einem Trio auf, in dem auch die Nordamerikaner Charlie Haden und Paul Motian waren. Sie überredeten ihn, auch bei den Jazz Festivals in Montreaux und Montreal aufzutreten und kümmerten sich um seine erste Aufnahmen beim Label Blue Note. Mit dieser Aufnahme erreichte er auch das US-Amerikanische Publikum. Mitte der 90er Jahre verließ er Kuba, ging aber, anders als die meisten seiner Landsleute, nicht nach Amerika.

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