“The Blessing” Liner Notes

If Gonzalo Rubalcaba was “discovered” by Charlie Haden during a 1986 Liberation Music Orchestra tour of Cuba and first introduced to the international jazz world through his surprise 1990 Montreux Jazz fest appearance with Haden and drummer Paul Motian (heard on Discovery,) The Blessing is the wondrous studio debut of a phenomenally gifted and mature artist. If Gonzalo is the brilliantly original heir of a Havana family long celebrated for its musicality, a student since early consciousness of his father Guilhermos’ piano tenure with Enrique Torrin’s Orchestra, classically trained since age eight (he was born in 1963) and tutored in the creative hothouse of a Caribbean capitol during the flowering of lrakere under the stewardship of Fidel, The Blessing is the hoped·for product of synthesized genetic and social forces, the graceful result of interwoven nature and nurture. If music of this high an order can only be made by three minds in noble collaboration, the utmost sensitivity to touch and nuances of interplay raised to the third power, The Blessing ranks among the finest examples of a genre that embraces the equilateral trios headed by pianists Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett no less than Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Tatum, Ellington, Basie and Monk. If passionate, contemplative and committed romance is in order, The Blessing is the perfect score. From the opening “Circuito” to the finale “Mima”-two of Gonzalo’s rhapsodic compositions-through Haden’s portrait of the Nicaraguan patriot “Sandino,” Ornette Coleman’s lyrically jaunty “The Blessing,” Jack DeJohnette’s haunting “Silver Hollow,” Rubalcaba’s intensely personal themes “Sinpunto y Contracopa” (pointless and contrary?) and “Sin remedio, el mar” (the inevitable sea), the classic Latin ballad “Besame Mucho” (kiss me lots) and Trane’s “Giant Steps,” which incredibly he makes his own, the pianist simply froths, his freedom of sense and sensuality spilling over. As DeJohnette reinforces and accentuates the subtle structures and Haden provides a rock solid basis upon which to found sweeping harmonic adventures, Rubalcaba allows emotional credibility to overwhelm technical prowess. Both his integrity and his skill are impossible to fake, and at levels daunting to imitate. Of the dozen or so fine, diversely accomplished young pianists who’ve emerged in the ’80s-after a period during which the acoustic instrument suffered neglect in favor of electronic keyboards, despite breakthroughs by several eminent underground players Gonzalo is suddenly a major figure. That he is hamstrung by U.S. Immigration and State Department restrictions on performing in America or even engaging in profitable activity directly with U.S. firms does not prevent him from appealing to American ears. The hint of montuno occasionally breaking through his improvisations is as familiar to jazz as the Latin tinge Jelly Roll Morton cited in New Orleans’ music. There is no way to keep such communicative music from spreading to those who want and need it. Similarly, whoever tries to contain or hoard such splendid blossomings of imagination and creativity threatens to waste the precious emanations by allowing their source to dry up. However, Gonzalo Rubalcaba does not seem in danger of any government’s suppression. His music is a model of a Cuban national’s art for all the world to admire. His fingers sing not of a political program, but of a human soul’s perceptions and expressions. That his connections with Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette (and Paul Motian and Chico Hamilton and Dizzy Gillespie, with whom he’s jammed) flow so effortlessly, without contrivance or even very much rehearsal, speaks volumes about the commonality of mankind. That Gonzalo has absorbed so much of contemporary America’s jazz culture also attests to the failure of artificial borders to restrain the natural passage of feeling and thought. Deep and fundamental beauty is the unexpected but welcomed hallmark of Gonzalo’s music. Neither his earlier recordings on the Cuban Engrem and the German Messidor labels, nor concerts with his fusion group Projecto quite foreshadowed the achievements herein. Perhaps the company he’s kept inspired him; if so, may the pianist always find collaborators as stimulating, alert and empathetic as Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette (that in itself will be hard). Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s future is unpredictable, but his promise now is certain. His music offers true balm and insight to whoever turns to it. He’s blessed, and this album is a blessing. Of that there’s no disguise.

-Howard Mandel

“Giraldilla” Liner Notes

A La Fuerza Espirita, Sostenida Musica En La Historia De Los Mas Diversos Encantamientos Armonicos, En La Ciencia Ritmica, La Tecnica Oradora Y La Busqueda De Espacios Y Formas En Tiempos. Al Impulso Espontaneo Y Arrebato Que En La Improvisacion Encontramos Y Reqalamos La Vida Como Parte Y Cuadro De La Obra Por Componer. Al Estimulo Brujo, A La Mistica Agonica Y Secreta Que Ofrece EI Buen Arte, EI Artista De Ia Vida En Extasis, Arropado Por Ia Fé Para CantarIe Al Amor Y La Muerte, Y La Vida.

To The Spirits Strength – Sustained Music In The History Of The Most Diverse Harmonic Enchantments – Rythmical Science, Praying Technique And Searching For Space And Temporary Forms To The Spontaneous Impulse – Out Burst Of Improvisation That We Present To Life As Frame And Part Of The Work To Be Composed To The Witch Stimulus, To The Secret Mystical Agony That Art Offers- The Artist Himself In Ecxtasis, Wrapped In Faith – In Chanting Love, Death And Life.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba

“Paseo” Liner Notes

“Paseotranslates as “walk,” “stroll,” or “passage.” The music on this album is a “paseo” or stroll through time, remembering the gaze of time, the pace and the passing of time. It is a paseo in honor of family, friends, life, tradition. saints, and the Spirit. And also you, our audiences. It is a passage or search for things that obligate, that help us grow, recall, forget, love, adore, and endure. It is about my passage, my quest, and my growth, both musically and as a human being. And it is about a joyous, carefree stroll with my dog, “Paseo con Fula,” the newest member or my family: my admirer, protector, and silent partner in observing life and the everyday follies by which we are surrounded: In this recording ,”Paseo con Fula,” we have gone for a stroll through the past, without nostalgia but with curiosity, wearing the attrtudes and prejudices that a=mpany us today, hopefully seeing, hearing, and understanding with clear eyes, ears, and mind. The “New Cuban Quartet” brings back one of the most prolific and successful groups of my past, but with young, creative musicians who give fresh, rich interpretations to new and old tunes, all of which resonate with meaning to me. I invite you to search for and enjoy their detail and fullness. “EI Guerrillero” (The Soldier) and “Los Buyes,” (The Oxen) both derive fromCuban folklore and are songs with themes of great spiritual meaning in Afro-Cuban culture. They draw ironic attention today to the warrior-spirit and ever-growing materialism of our culture. I have long admired the work of Hilario Gonzalez, a late twentieth-century Cuban composer whose music I played while still in high school as an antidote to too much Mozart and Beethoven. Here I use his “Preludio en Conga, #1” as a catapult into a wonderfully free-flowing quartet excursion in which Armando and Felipe, especially, really soar. “Bottoms Up,” “Sea Change,” and “Meanwhile” are totally new conceptualizations of material composed and recorded earlier in my career, which still sound contemporary and very connected to what we are doing right now. Likewise “Santo Canto” can be found in an earlier recording, and its hauntingand provocative melodies fit well with the spiritual elements found in many other tunes on this CD. “Quasar,” as reflected by the length of the cut, has a special place in my heart. It is a composition which was huge when first conceived as “Supernova II,” but it has grown and evolved into aim entity with a structure which invites continued reinvention. Hopefully we are beyond nostalgia on this “Paseo.” We have visited the best of the past with curiosity and a willingness to change and recreate. Love beyond grief, strength and wisdom beyond fatigue and emptiness, sustain me today. May you find something in this music that will chang life for the better.


“Inner Voyage” Liner Notes


Each production involves an effort, journey, new difficulties and contradictions, an aim. I don’t know why, but going into a studio  means not only handing over, but also finding. Perhaps it’s because while there I’m by myself, no matter how many good people surround me. I gather that each one of those present has the same feeling. Only one thing transforms this solitude: to have arrived at the studio with the group of memories accumulated during tours and encounters with widely dispersed audiences. Ours is the essence of trust, the practice of dialog: communication, answer and surrender being the absolute elements of the unique act we call “concert.” To arrive at the studio (laboratory or archive) with this consideration looming actually benefits us – by converting or detouring tension, nervousness, worries about the cold and calculated setting into a calm, amused air of enjoyment. Still this techno-acoustic space always tends to make us desperate, submerge us, and even drown us in a cycle of cold and hot, light and darkness. That’s to be expected of such a place, given the desires, capacities and energies of those who inhabit it. Not that creation depends upon a specific physical space. Creation neither begins nor ends there, but rather it expands and contracts all the while it lasts. Such creation embraces the foreseen (in this case, the composed) and the unforeseen (here, the improvised)  We’re in the presence of both professional virtuosity at its interpretive heights, and also immediate creativity wherein each individual imagination exercises a peculiar leadership that involves soloing and accompanying, declaring and being declared to, giving orientation and getting oriented, at once. This is the process through which democracy, prudence, gallantry,knowledge, love, faith and conviction are ever better defined. “Inner Voyage” is just that – a spiritual journey that hopes to capture the most intense or compelling truths of each chosen situation or special moment when happiness reveals itself to us, despite adversity. Moments during which we feel alone and important, having learned how to live with each other from our children, having admired the path of people who keep their feet on the ground, who contribute to life with actions based on dreams and the analysis of nature and its propositions. We await with urgency -and seek to hasten -solutions to the uncertainties of withdrawal and return, permanency or evolution of the cultural traditions from which we’ve sprung, and their relations with other systems of reproduction, or life.

– Gonzalo Rubalcaba

“Imagine” Liner Notes

Imagine a music that leaps borders and boundaries, is as smart as it is heartful, attracts listeners to its quiet, confident playfulness and challenges players to realize new realms of sonic substance and quality. Imagine this music of intriguing melodies, complex yet compelling rhythms and myriad harmonic dimensions springs from a composer-improviser who, well-versed in his profession’s real life demands, and, through family tradition, is to his creative art born.Imagine that for reasons having nothing to do with him-another accident of birth that musician is denied access to essential experiences that would likely inform his future maturity and accomplishments, as well as to the audience that might gain the most life-enhancement from his work: Then imagine the bars against him are lifted. Imagine: Gonzalo Rubalcaba In The USA celebrates that happy stage of an ongoing story. Our hero’s virtuosic and romantic modernism has not gone unheard in this country: listeners and fellow players returned from international jazz festivals with reports of his piano mastery, some of his earliest productions were issued by an independently distributed label, and Imagine is his seventh recording made available in the USA by Blue Note (through a licensing pact with its Japanese affiliate Toshiba/EMI Somethin’ Else Records) since 1990. Yet it wasn’t until May 14,1993 that Rubalcaba, two weeks shy of his 30th year, was permitted by the U.S. State Department (in response to a concerted letter-writing campaign) to perform publicly Stateside despite his Cuban citizenship and our threedecade- long embargo on all people and products Cuban. New York City’s prestigious series Jazz At Lincoln Center hosted Rubalcaba in an evening-length program like the one re-constructed on Imagine, featuring special guests Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette and his world-touring Cuban ensemble, at Alice Tully Hall. Alone at the piano, Gonzalo started with a deeply personal re-casting of “Imagine,” John Lennon’s reverie on idealism (he performed the version opening this album and his solo “Circuito II” before a specially-invited audience in Hollywood a year later; he’d given “Imagine” a funkier spin at Mt. Fuji with DeJohnette and John Patitucci, as heard on Images, in ’91). After a duet with singer Dianne Reeves, Gonzalo continued by lovingly turning to his mentor-bassist Haden’s composition “First Song.” Haden’s unerring sense for what’s musically fundamental and drummer DeJohnette’s touch-and-timbre sensitive percussion collaborate in the unfolding of a song that’s elementally beautiful, sad and wise. Out came trumpeter Reynaldo Melian and electric bassist Felipe Carbera-rnusical associates since Rubalcaba’s fusioneering Grupg Projecto of the mid ’80s-and drummer Julio Barreto, one Cuban traps drummer with a natural feel for swing and backbeat. Gonzalo’s writing for this grou~epresented by “Contagio”–draws on conser ·vatory-suitable attention to composition and detail·, the joys of pure bop Dizzy Gillespie (another of his mentors) visited on Afro-Caribbean culture, and the son montuno that’s at the root of Gonzalo’s national and personal heritage (his father Guilhermo being the pianist in Enrique Jorrin’s Orchestra that formulated the cha-cha, his grandfather Jacobo the composer of numerous enduringly influential danzons). As Rubalcaba’s quartet deftly adapts North American jazz techniques to extensions of the Cuban folkloric idiom, it addresses bop classics directly with equal insouciance-hence the brash version of Diz’s “Woody ‘N You.” Like “Contagio,” the elegantly reclaimed Cuban standard “Perfidia” and Gonzalo’s final brief “Mima.” “Woody ‘N You” was captured live during a benefit cOllcert for the NARAS Music Cares Foundation at UCLA in June ’94. The audience is audibly enthusiastic, Gonzalo and his compatriots are obviously pleased to play, their music is audibly alive, and evidence is that since he first visited the States, Rubalcaba still a Cuban citizen but now a resident of the Dominican Republic, has triumphed here again and again. Imagine that great nations bow with respect to fine art, that minds finds solutions to larger problems as people come together in the creation and enjoyment of intelligently rich music, that more than one talent of enormous originality and extraordinary potential resides in a place so forbidden or remote we’re in danger of never hearing of them, much I.ess hearing they themselves. Listen to Imagine: Gonzalo Rubalcaba In The USA and be satisfied hopes sometimes come true.

-Howard Mandel


Gonzalo and Al DiMeola in the Studio

Gonzalo Rubalcaba in Poland

Gonzalo Rubalcaba Live In Poland

Live 2010 Courtesy of Simon Sounds

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