What the critics are saying about Gonzalo Rubalcaba…

What the critics are saying about Gonzalo Rubalcaba

” … the greatest pianist I’ve heard in the last 10 years.”

-Dizzy Guillespie’s remarks ( 1985).

“I fell on the floor and asked, ‘Who is that guy, his solo was so unbelievable…He was 23 at the time, I, but it was like hearing a combination of Art Tatum, Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans.”

Charlie Haden

” … this is the best new voice to come along in jazz in almost a decade”.

-Jack Fuller, Chicago Tribune

” … Rubalcaba is a world-class jazz pianist with an impressive intensity and

command of his instrument.”

-Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times

” ….. This young man approaches jazz improvisation with an intriguing blend of

appealing abandon and profound beauty.”

-Chris Albertson, Stereo Review

… Rubalcaba displays both a keen sense of history and a renegade’s sense of

exploration. Where yesterday collides with tomorrow, that’s where you’ll find

Rubalcaba. At least for now- who knows where he’ll be off to next.”

-Jon Regen, Keyboard Magazine.

” … 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.

-Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

” … This was certainly one of the top programs ofthe season, whether classical or

jazz, and possibly THE program; an exceptional performer, an exceptional creative

artist at the very top of this game. An unforgettable moment, one that if captured on

CD, you would play over and over, to absorb every nuance.

– Tom Moore, Classical Voice of North Carolina.

” … The Cuban-born pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, who over the last 15 years or so has

become one of the greatest musicians in jazz, is meticulous about music. You can tell

this by the first unaccompanied notes of “Avatar”, his complexly beautiful new

album. He has an almost eerie control over his sound, as if he were playing the

string directly instead of using the keys as intermediaries. He is also meticulous

about ideas …. “

– Ben Ratliff, The New York Time

” ….. This isn’t Latin Jazz per se, or even Mr. Rubalcaba’s original version of it; it’s

more recognizably modern mainstream New York jazz.”

-Ben Ratliff, The New York Time.

” …. “Solo” is a remarkable achievement, at once meditative and muscular, and a

strong early contender for the 2006 TOP 10 list.”

-Josef Woodard, Jazziz Magazine.

” …. “Solo”, as his ninth recording for Blue Note, Rubalcaba solidifies his position as

one of the finest pianists of his, or any generation.”

-Paula Edelstein, All About Jazz Magazine.

” … He was also able to bring out a lot of the subtleties of Cuban music into his jazz

playing in a very original way.”

-Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune.

” … Listen to the sleek pianism and exquisite instrumental dialogues between

Rubalcaba and his sidemen throughout “Paseo” and it’s clear how far he has come.”

-Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune.


” … 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.”

-Suan Pineda, Columbia

” … His sparkle doesn’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.”

-Suan Pineda, Columbia.

” … You can take pianist Gonzalo Ru balcaba out of his native land – and that in itself is

news but you can’t take Cuba out of Gonzalo. The Personal and political passions so

long associated with the island, its pride and isolation in a vast and roiling sea, come

to live in his music.”

-Howard Mandel, Jazziz Magazine.

” .. .It’s not just his speed, it’s his touch …. lt’s not just his touch, it’s his ideas.”

-Marty Hughley, Aregonian, Portland.

” … This reason, which Rubalcaba has managed to balance with a precise dexterity,

dwell in the symbiosis between the know-ledge of yesterday and 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.”

-Suan Pineda, Columbia.

” … And that’s because it isa minimalist musical expression- give 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.”

– Suan Pineda, Columbia

Gonzalo Rubalcaba Quinteto – Hip Side (fragm.)

Gonzalo Rubalcaba “RAPSODIA CUBANA”

JAZZiT Magazine Jan/Feb 2005 Intervista a Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Intervista a Gonzalo Rubalcaba di Vincenzo Martorella – Foto di Stefano Sapora

Atre anni da “Supernova”, esce l’atteso nuovo lavoro del prodigioso pianista cubano. Un disco complesso etrascinante, denso earticolato. Un’opera totale, ma anche un omaggio ai ritmi della sua terra. Lo abbiamo intervistato.

?) Supernova è uscito nel 2001. Dopo tre anni pubblichi un nuovo disco, ·Paseo·. Cosa hai fatto In questi tre anni?

!) Ho lavorato’ e l’ho fatto in diversi contesti. Ho suonatu con Joao Bosco. con il quale ho avuto concerti in Europa, Brasile, America e Canada. Allo stesso tempo ho suonato spesso in piano. Poi ho aiutato Charlie Haden nella realizzazione di ‘Land Of The Sun’. Ho suonato con lui in giro per il mondo. E devo ammettere che sentivo la necessità di realizzare un nuovo album. Sono convinto che si debba incidere un nuovo disco solamente quando i musicisti con cui suoni sono entrati in confidenza con il nuovo immaginario musicale. Quindi, è molto importante andare in tour, suonare il più possibile e crescere musicalmente concerto dopo conceroto. “Supernova” è stato un album fortunato, che abbiamo avuto l’opportunità di presentare in giro per il mondo. Allo stesso tempo, il precedente album con Haden richiedeva che io suonassi in giro per il mondo con il suo gruppo, così mi è capitato di essere in tour con band diverse contemporaneamente: in trio, con Haden e in piano solo. Poi, finalmente, ho trovato il momento giusto per incidere il nuovo disco. E devo riconoscereche mi sono sentito un po’ sotto pressione perché erano passati tre anni dall’ultimo cd e tuttele etichette discografiche, in linea di massima, pretendono un disco ogni anno. Ma vedendo la cosa da una prospettiva diversa posso dire che questo èstato un fatto positivo perché aver trascorso questo tempo lavorando, confrontandosi con musicisti diversi ti dà l’opportunità di crescere, come strumentista e come compositore: diventi più maturo, più consapevole, e dunque più preparato per il passo successivo. Questo è il motivo fondamentale per cui c’è voluto tutto questo tempo.

?) Piano elettrico, sintetizzatori, basso elettrico. ·Paseo· segna una svolta elettrica nella tua musica?

!) Direi di no. In realtà, ho usato questi strumenti anche in passato, seppure occasionalmente. Molti musicisti hanno un’idea confusa su come utilizzare l’elettronica. Èvero: ogni volta che si usano le tastiere si corre il rischio di perdere in parte la personalità del suono, delle radici, delle tradizioni, ma tutto dipende da come lo si fa, da come la tecnologia viene applicata alla musica. Usare i sintetizzatori vuoi dire porsi la domanda su dove ecome usarli. Non posso dire che tutto quello che facciamo noi sia corretto: perlomeno, cerchiamo di proporre ~n metodo di utilizzo delle tecnologie, e un metodo per combinarle con le sezioni acustiche (il piano, il sax, la batteria). Siamo alla ricerca di un equilibrio, equesta è, probabilmente, la parte più difficile, cioè trovare il giusto equilibrio senza mai perdere di vista il risultato musicale. Ma io credo molto nella possibilità di trovare nuove sonorità, nuovi modi di espressione, nuovi mezzi per vedere la mia musica. Adesso dobbiamo decidere come portare in tour questo album. ecapire se quella musica possa essere la stessa anche

senza i sintetizzatori o se, invece, in questo modo possa perdere forza ed energia. Fortunatamente nella musica ci sono molti elementi che vanno al di là del suono: la forma, l’idioma di un pezzo, il modo personale di espressione di ciascun musicista. Quindi, la musica può essere suonata con qualunque tipo di strumento, con una big band, un trio, con i synth, senza i synth. Bisogna anche rapportarsi al pubblico più giovane che ha molta familiarità con i sintetizzatori, enon solo per far vedere che anche noi li usiamo, ma per mostrare loro come li usiamo, con quale personalità.

?) I  musicisti che suonano con te sono formidabili. Ma se Ignacio Berroa è una vecchia conoscenza, dove hai pescato Armando Gola?

i) Èun musicista cubano, così come cubani sono tutti i musicisti, compreso me. Ignacio vive negli Usa da 24 anni. Armando viveva in Colombia, prima di trasferirsi anche lui negli States, dove ha vissuto tra Miami e New York. È buffo perché ricevetti un cd con alcuni suoi demo, quando ancora non lo conoscevo. Chiesi un appuntamento per incontrarlo personalmente e lui mi disse che aveva visto alcuni miei concerti a Cuba ein Colombia (dove, negli anni ’90, suonavo almeno una volta all’anno). Rimasi impressionato dal suo modo di suonare, e iniziammo a provare insieme. Felipe, invece, ha vissuto in Brasile per quattro o cinque anni; lì ha esplorato tutti i percorsi della musica brasiliana, poi si è spostato negli Usa, dove ha suonato per qualche tempo nella band di Arturo Sandoval. Con loro ho, finalmente, per la prima volta, avuto la fortuna di avere musicisti nella stessa città, New York. Quando, ad esempio, mi trasferii nella Repubblica Dominicana, il resto della band viveva aCuba. Qualche anno dopo, il batterista Julio Barreto si trasferii in Svizzera. Anche quando andai negli Usa èstato difficile trovarsi nella stessa città con gli altri musicisti. Adesso ho una band con cui posso spendere tutto il tempo che voglio aprovare eregistrare. Credo molto nell’importanza del gruppo, nel conoscersi, nel confrontarsi. Nel condividere le proprie idee. E riuscire a fare questo, quando si vive in città distanti, e non si ha mai la possibilità di vedersi e suonare insieme, diventa difficile.

?) Da un punto di vista ritmico, questo è forse il tuo album più complesso. L’articolazione ritmica, per te, riveste un valore particolare?

!) Dico sempre che ritmo, armonia, articolazio-· ne delle forme, struttura dovrebbero essere il tuo modo di pensare come musicista, e come essere umano. Non dobbiamo cercare di fare di più di quello che possiamo, ma dobbiamo fare musica nel modo in cui sappiamo farlo. E il risultato èla musica di questo disco. Dal punto di vista ritmico Cuba èun paese molto ricco, e c’è molto più ritmo di quanto non si sappia. È un paese con musiche molto diverse, alcune delle quali non sono affatto conosci ute. Quando ero piccolo ho avuto la possibilità di entrare in contatto con queste espressioni: folklore, musiche religiose eda ballo. Equesto per varie ragioni: innanzitutto perché vengo da una famiglia di musicisti, equesta èstata una palestra per me fondamentale; secondo, perché ho studiato musica classica; terzo, perché fin da giovanissimo sono entrato in contatto col mondo del jazz. Quindi, la mia musica èuna combinazione di molti elementi diversi. Direi quasi uno spazio in cui mettere tutte queste influenze che ci sono nella mia testa, in una maniera organica. Può essere difficile quando leggi le partiture la prima volta. Ma, in fondo, tutto quello che facciamo èstudiare le nostre tradizioni, basarci sulle informazioni che abbiamo, e riorganizzare il tutto in spazi diversi, accordi diversi, sonorità diverse, forme diverse. Una sorta di espansione, di estensione del mondo al quale apparteniamo. Larticolazione ritmica, allora, rappresenta esattamente una nostra peculiare caratteristica, come il modo di parlare odi camminare. Ciò che mi interessa è la fluidità, il flusso ritmico, ela nostra abilità nel conversare, suonando, condividendo questi flussi ritmici.

?) Aproposito di ritmi, come mai, in ·Paseo·, hai suonato le percussioni?

i) Sono stato costretto afarlo! Ame piace suonare le percussioni, ma questa volta sono stato davvero costretto afarlo. Avevo in mente di chiamare Giovanni Hidalgo, ma per motivi extra-musicali,non siamo riusciti aincontrarci per provare il materiale. Alla fine avevamo pochissimo tempo adisposizione per completare l’album e alloraomi sono preso la responsabilità di suonare le percussioni.

?) La tua tecnica strumentale è trascendentale. Eppure, uno dei momenti più belli del disco è il tuo accompagnamento al solo di soprano in El Guerrillero. Con pochissime note, emeravigliosi spostamenti di accento, riesci, almeno cosi mi pare, a trasmettere l’essenza stessa del ritmo cubano…

!) Non èniente di predeterminato, niente di prestabilito. Credo che lo stesso brano possa assumere un significato diverso ogni sera. Magari suoniamo ogni volta la stessa musica, ma le emozioni che quella musica ti ha fatto provare ieri non sono le stesse che provi oggi perché sei tu a reagire diversamente. Ho sempre pensato che i concerti non debbano essere visti semplicemente come musicisti che suonano i loro strumenti: i concerti sono molto di più. Un concerto è: i musicisti, gli strumenti, l’ambiente, il pubblico, l’acustica; tutto questo insieme di elementi condiziona il comportamento dei musicisti, la loro attitudine mentale in quel contesto. Per me, l’abilità di un buon musicista sta nel mettere insieme diverse capacità espressive, nell’avere i mezzi per suonare ciò che èappropriato in ogni momento. È questo il motivo per cui, per me, ècosì importante essere preparato tecn icamente: questo è l’unico modo di essere libero. Libero di fare tutto quello che vuoi, compreso quelle poche note alle quali ti riferivi con un buon sound euna buona intenzione, ofraseggiare in modo aggressivo, o in qualunque altro modo. Devi esercitarti molto, e ad alti livelli, se vuoi essere in grado di portare la musica dove vuoi tu. Ma non c’è nessun piano, nulla di prestabilito, non faccio questo per confondere l’ascoltatore, come qualcuno potrebbe pensare.

?) Quando ascolto la tua musica non posso  fare a meno di  pensare a Manuel Saumell, Ignacio Cervantes, Ernesto Lecuona, all’americano Louis Moreau Gottschalk, e ai compositori cubani contemporanei (Roldàn, Caturla)…

!) E, infatti, sono molto legato alla loro musica. Mi sono avvicinato aloro fin da bambino, perché ascuola ti fanno studiare le loro composizioni. Oggi, poi, mi sento ancora più vicino a questi musicisti, così come a Roldàn, Caturla, Leo Brouwer, veri e propri punti di riferimento. Purtroppo, non tutti comprendono l’importanza che questi grandi compositori hanno avuto nel ventesimo secolo, soprattutto negli anni Venti eTrenta, e io cerco di studiare e comprendere il loro punto di vista. Perché erano musicisti attentissimi atutto quello che succedeva nel mondo intorno a loro, in termini di tendenze e influenze musicali, ma, nello stesso tempo, non persero mai le loro radici, e lavorarono sempre nel più puro spirito delle radici cubane. Fecero molte esperienze all’estero, ma la loro estetica fu quella di creare uno spazio sonoro nel quale far convergere la tradizione cubana eciò che succedeva al di fuori di esse. Questa èuna filosofia musicale, ed èla filosofia nella quale credo. Anch’io cerco di fare la stessa cosa. Avolte ricevo delle critiche, negli Usa, proprio perché la gente non riesce a comprendere cosa c’è dietro la mia musica. Per un trentennio, dal ’62 in poi, tra Usa e Cuba non c’è stata alcuna comunicazione. Ora, invece, molti americani, e anche molti europei, stanno scoprendo la tradizione musicale cubana. grazie anche a un fenomeno come il Buena Vista Social Club, e mi fa piacere perché è un bene che i musicisti di quella generazione abbiano la possibilità di andare in giro per il mondo a suonare quella musica, così importante per Cuba. Le cose stanno cambiando, ma il mio compito, come musicista, resta quello di continuare, a livello filosofico, la strada indicata dai grandi maestri. Come dire, to bring the music at the right moment. ..

JAZZIT

Gonzalo Rubalcaba Trio / Autumn Leaves (1991)

IMAGINE – GONZALO RUBALCABA

Mariza Meets Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Madalena – Ivan Lins, Gonzalo Rubalcaba e João Bosco

Água de Beber / Tom Jobim – Free Jazz

Keyboard Magazine May 2008 Interview by Jon Regen

Gonzalo Rubalcaba jumps continents – and centuries – with his groundbreaking take on Latin jazz.

by Jon Regen

Since bursting onto the jazz scene with his explosive Blue Note debut in 1990, Gonzalo Rubalcaba has carved out a singular niche in the musical landscape. In Rubalcaba’s world, jazz standards embrace electronic textures, Cuban rhythms collide with classical articulations – in other words, music is ever expanding and all-inclusive. Rubalcaba’s new album Avata.r is another genre bending tour de force that demonstrates how his unique trifecta of technique, insight, and daring has propelled him to the forefront of modern improvised music. From the sly, conversational “Looking In Retrospective,” where stark piano lines meet drum ‘n’ bass grooves, to the hip-hop infused “This Is It,” Rubalcaba displays both a keen sense of history and a renegade’s sense of exploration. Where yesterday collides with tomorrow, that’s where you’ll find Rubalcaba. At least for now – who knows where he’ll be off to next. I first heard the 44-year-old Cuban-born pianist at the Istanbul Jazz Festival in 2005, where he was anchoring Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra. Having heard his first few technically astounding Blue Note recordings, I was

at once struck by the lyrical quality of his playing. Rubalcaba seemed to be saying as much with the notes he didn’t play, as with those he did. For a musician who made a name for himself with a fearless technique and a complete command of the piano, the newly-found elegance and restraint in his playing was an unexpected surprise. Recently, 1caught Rubalcaba at New York’s famed Village Vanguard for a blistering set that showcased music from the new album, and the determined musical vision behind it. During a break from his sold-out engagement, Rubalcaba sat down with me in midtown Manhattan to talk about the making ofAva.tar and his constant quest for musical excellence. I read that Avatar was originally supposed to be a trio record. How did that concept evolve into the modernsounding quintet we hear on the

recording? The original idea was to make a trio record. I tried to put together some music for the album, but it didn’t sound to me like it should be for a trio. I thought I needed one or two more elements in this group. There was something I wanted to do for a long time – to extend lines, melodies and harmonies, not only with the piano and the rhythm section, but with different colors and possibilities. I had knowledge of people like saxophonist Yosvany Terry and some other guys who were here in the States composing great music. I wanted to share with them in this spirit. Finally, I thought it was the right time to change the format and to change the members of the band – I had been working almost ten years with the same group, and I loved what they did. But I had that need to go in a different direction. One of the things that made the difference on this record was not only that it was a quintet, but that it was a record that I put fewer original compositions on. This was a band where I wanted to give everybody the opportunity to collaborate. Not only to use them as sidemen, but to put them to work in terms of the conception of the group. And we did it. There are three compositions by Yosvany and one by bassist Matt Brewerm and I’m happy about what they brought to the band. At the end I feel that it represents my record. When I put the new record on, the first thing I was reminded of from the opening on “Looking In Retrospective” was Keith Jarrett. Was he an influence on you? I think so. People in Cuba in the ’60s and 70s were more into Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, and McCoy Tyner. Few people were interested in what Keith was doing at that time. The big explosion about Keith came with his vision on how to play standards. [ had a connection with Keith since the first time I heard his [1976 album] The Survivor’s Suite. But at the same time, musicians in Cuba felt connected with Keith because we have a very strong classical training. The way he approaches the piano – technically and emotionally, it is very in the tradition of the classical school. Plus, he has great knowledge of the jazz tradition and roots. His playing is clean and clear – the articulation and dynamics, the construction of the phrases. For us in Cuba, where there was an obligation to do the classical school, Keith became a very representative image of what we had in front of us as students. That tune that opens the record, “Looking In Retrospective,” is a Yosvany tune, and I’m sure that he was influenced by Keith in his life. Avatar seems to transcend the Latin genre. It sounds like people making music in the most honest sense of the word – expressing today, expressing now. Not expressing preconceptions of what that music is “supposed” to be. I think that’s a good point. To me, Latin music is not exactly what people believe it is. I say that the most well known and promoted part of Latin music is probably the part connected with the dance, the music that the people use in Cuba and different countries around Latin America to dance and to party. I have nothing against that because I come from a family totally related to that history and that tradition. That tradition was my first reference musically, so the first thing I played, actually – not as a piano player but as a percussionist because I played drums and congas first – was Afro-Cuban music. The son, danz6n, chacha-cha, boleros. And after that I came to school and got a classical education, and then [ listened to jazz records. But the first thing was the Cuban stuff. If we go back to the end ofthe 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century, we can see that a lot of composers were using all these Cuban elements, but putting them in a different organization. Guys like Alejandro Garcia Caturla, [whose “Prellldio Carta No.2 for Piano Tu Amor Em Flaso” appean on Avatar -Ed.], Amadeo Roldan, among others, were very connected with what composers like Igor Stravinsky, Bela Bartok, Paul Hindemith, and others from the modern school were doing. But they never ignored their roots. What they did was try to actualize their reality at that moment, and put that reality on a stage beyond the Cuban reality. That’s why we saw Cuban composers sharing the stage with successful European composers in the most successful theaters around the world in the ’20s and ’30s. This is the image I have of how to work with Cuban and Latin music. The good thing about the new generation of American musicians is that they are approaching the music without any resistance. They want to learn everything possible. Not only about jazz, or blues, or American tradition, but about everything else that can make them better musicians. And that makes the mission easier, because when you sit down to rehearse and say, “Okay, this is what I have, and here are the references, and I want to go in this direction,” you don’t see any confusion. They understand what you are talking about. And when you see what they have on their iPods – it could be hip-hop or classical to Ellington, Bud Powell, Greg asby, Elvin Jones, or Cuban music. They know about everything. And I think this is what made this record happen the way it did.

Isn’t that really the essence of jazz – blurring musical boundaries? You do chart new sonic ground on this record.

For many of us in this generation, we don’t come to the studio or the stage thinking about how to do jazz. Or thinking about how to do this or that. We come to do music. There are always influences. You can hear the jazz or the Cuban elements. But in the end, the target is to make music. And I think that happened with people like Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. They had the same need, because they didn’t want to see themselves as local musicians, but as part of the world. And they wanted to see their music influence not only jazz musicians, but the music of the whole world. And they made it, because if you read comments coming from Stravinsky and Hindemith, they talk about when they came to the United States, how big the influence was of those jazz musicians, and how that experience shaped them to work with those folks at some point in their lives.

There’s something very interesting in your playing on this record – and you don’t hear this from many pianists. When you’re playing lines, you often repeat the same note in a phrase. Where did ou pick up on this from?

Well, you hear this a lot in singers.  And many people don’t notice it. You’ll hear melodies and singers repeat a note constantly. [Huns a melodic phrase where the melody repeats.] And they are repeating notes, but in a very musical way so you don’t notice it. But there are some examples, for instance, McCoy Tyner. He would repeat notes three or four times inside a phrase. And it’s a very smart idea, because not only does the note becomes a platform to a new idea, but the note also takes a new connotation if you change the harmony block in your left hand. John Coltrane used to do this a lot. You wrote a tune on the new album, entitled, “Infantil,” dedicated to John McLaughlin. Can you talk about the influence of innovators like him on you and your music? I think that was an important moment – not only John, but Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, and Wayne Shorter from Weather Report, Emerson, Lake & Palmer – that spectrum of people demonstrating how you could be serious, professional, and creative, and at the same time apply technology. They opened the road for many people at that time, and they got a lot of criticism, but they kept on going. Most important to me, besides the music, was the attitude. They kept themselves young. It seems to me that jazz pianists who have practiced a lot of classical technique come upon a sense of discovery and playfulness when they learn to improvise, maybe because some barriers disappear. How have your classical foundations affected your current work? I think it’s about how conscious you are in terms of how professional you have to be when you go to the stage. Even if your function on the stage is to play one note, you have find the way to bring that note out successfully. You have to hit that note at the right time, with the right feeling, with the right quality of sound. So it’s not about music – it’s about finding myself. But not to find the best side of myself, but to find the problems I have. Because some people go to their instruments to repeat and to enjoy what they know already. And they spend three, four, five hours at their instrument, repeating that, enjoying themselves. They are in love with themselves. And I think you have to respect yourself enough every day so that you can avoid that. So that you can afford to do different things, and face your problems and frustrations, and see that you are not perfect. What I can do to better understand music, whether it’s blues or jazz or pop, or danzon, is to listen. But not only to listen to the music that makes me happy, but to listen to the music that at some point I heard and I didn’t understand. So let me revisit that music – and see if that reaction was part of ignorance. Let me see if now I am able to understand it. Where do you think you got this sense of patience? Did it come from members of your family who taught you this kind of discipline? Discipline comes from two different places. School, and home – your family, the people behind you. I think this is really important. When you have parents and people around you that push you and force you because there is a time when you are younger and you’re unclear as to how to do things in life. You need to be forced sometimes. And they show you the idea of waking up every day, going to the instrument, working at the instrument, and spending time in order to get results. You have to find systems in order to maximize your time. You have a responsibility to pay back the people who stand behind you and have believed in you. But the most important thing is love, the need you have to express yourself through the music. To me, the music helps me to be a better person. I’m making music not only because it is a need. The music helps me see the world around me in the clearest way. To make music as a profession is not only to sit down at a piano and play, but we have to deal with many things that have nothing to do with music. Pressures, business around you, and some people don’t have the capacity to deal with it all, and they give up. Mental strength is what makes the difference, to be able to split your time – to say this is the time for business, and this is the time for the music. Are there some pianistic or musical influences that people might be surprised about”? I think you are always hearing things. Even ifyou don’t like an entire performance, there’s always a moment when you’ll say “that moment was important.” You seem like you’re able to focus on the good in many things. If people would take that attitude in life, life would be better. As musicians, we have the ability to criticize everybody. But what is hard for musicians is to talk not about the good things about you, but about the good things about other people. It’s easy to say, “I don’t like this. This guy’s not playing. This generation’s not doing good. The people of my generation were better,” but I think everybody is doing their best. At the end, you can see that people follow you, and they pack the club to come see you, and maybe they aren’t following other guys, but it doesn’t represent quality. There are a lot of elements in that game that are not about quality all the time. I’m clear about that. You can have a great moment, and sometimes you don’t even understand why. And I don’t care very much for great moments, in terms of popularity. Because I think this is something you have no control about. It depends on many factors. You probably get more popularity at the moment where you think you are not doing your best work. There are different factors that make you become popular. What’s coming up for you this year? I’m writing new music for the quintet, and this time I hope to increase the electronic elements on the next record. I’m also working on an opera that is scheduled to be released in 2011. There are two composers involved – Anthony Davis, and myself. And in April, I’m recording with [French accordionist] Richard Galliano, in a quartet that features drummer Manu Katche and bassist Charlie Haden. When I heard you in Istanbul a few years back, I was struck by what seemed like a big change and a new sense of lyricism in your playing. You have always had an amazing sense of facility, but all of a sudden there seemed to be a sense of space and sweetness – a whole new direction had opened up. I always say that people can’t change things at the exact moment they want to. You need to know what you want to change before you can change it. I’m not always happy with what is happening in the moment, But I’m happy that at that moment, I have the idea how to do things better tomorrow. That means that I’m still able to see different ways to go. There’s a possibility to go somewhere – and sometimes you’re wrong, but at least that attitude, that you’re alert and open and hungry, helps you begin transforming things. You’re always searching.

Exactly. That’s the most important thing.

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