Gonzalo Rubalcaba | Avatar [Latin Jazz/Review]
When I hear inspiring young artists like pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, I know within the oracle of his music and imagination, that he’s fundamentally grounded. This style of music is well within the scope of what I expect, want and love to hear when I listen to jazz.
As a renowned pianist, the Cuban native is into his second decade of recording music. Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s latest album on Blue Note “Avatar”, is suspended beyond the acoustic realm and intricacies of his previous efforts as a leader. Even so, the beauty of this album is compiled with lyrical, spirited, and rhythmically memorable gems. With his more then sufficient quintet, Rubalcaba generously shares the stage with his band-mates by asking them to be contributors compositionally to this impressive project.
On the opener, the “Latin Jazz Grammy Award” winner [Supernova] Rubalcaba asserts himself brilliantly on “Looking in Retrospective.” He ushers you into the room with a unassuming piano interlude solo, and soon thereafter, his voice surges into a brainstorm of synergy that confirms why connoisseurs of jazz maintain a steadfast spirit regardless of what folks are saying about jazz these days, … “because it’s recordings like “Avatar” that accurately states why jazz is alive and thriving.” In consensus, and mobile agility, soloist Mike Rodriguez on Trumpet and the versatile ,Yosvany Terry on saxophone, fervently connect to the heart and soul of the music throughout this engagement.
>For the rhythmically challenged, Gonzalo entangles his masterful playing around the mesmerizing Afro Cuba influenced “This Is It.” With the anticipated vibrancy and dexterous tendencies by Gonzalo’s furious playing, he summons the aforementioned players along with the talented Matt Brewer on acoustic bass. [has played with saxophonist Greg Osby]. Marcus Gilmore plays drums to consciously develop a spirit unity on this outing.
At midway point on “Avatar,” two great tunes are joint heirs of quietude appear. These expressive arrangements feature the softer side of Gonzalo’s playing. The first selection is by bassist – Matt Brewer titled “Aspiring to Normalcy,” which is a thought-provoking piece, that’s beautifully played in a trio setting. Another accomplished pianist named Horace Silver penned the next selection titled “Peace.” This tune was originally recorded with trumpeter Blue Mitchell. Both selections gave Gonzalo the opportunity to channel his energy into a somber tone as he eloquently plays with an air of sophistication and imagination.
The rapture of this compelling music seems never ending on ‘Avatar’, as a fiery groove called “Hip Side” explodes with impressionistic value, counterbalanced by multi-layered textures that are shaped by the dynamics of Gonzalo’s arrangement. However, the quirky and the exceptionally witty “Infantil” [Dedicated to John McLaughlin], is addictive with its Monkish qualities. The guys in the band intervene with an intense conversation by interweaving their internal voices that draws from the riches in and outside the framework of classic and modern jazz.
Finally, Rubalcaba explores the classical elements of “Preludio Corto No. 2 for Piano (Tu amor era falso),” by the mid-20th century Cuban composer Alejandro Garcia Caturla (1906-1940). This gentle piano intro accurately expresses the excellence of Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s playing. At a moments notice, the quintet enters seamlessly into the composition, as a conduit, combining melodic and gorgeous improvised textures!
It’s apparent to me after hanging out on the New York jazz scene, it has strengthened the voice of Gonzalo Rubalcaba artistically. You can hear the dynamics in his unpredictable palette of engaging nuances, as they excel throughout Avatar. If you haven’t yet, be daring enough to take this passionate journey with Gonzalo’s music and discover why “Avatar” would be the perfect place to begin.