Gonzalo Rubalcaba – 21st Century – 5Passion [2-CDs] Disc 1 – 49:51, disc 2 – 40:47 ***:
(Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Yamaha CFX acoustic piano & keyboards; Matt Brewer – acoustic doublebass, Arco bass & electric bass; Marcus Gilmore – drums. Featuring: Ignacio Berroa – drums on “Moore”; Pedro “Pedrito” Martinez – Percussion on “Nueva Cubana”, “Fifty”, “Oshun:, “Son XXI”, “Alafia” & voice on “Oshun”; Lionel Leouke – guitar and voice on “Fifty” & “Alafia”; Gary Galimidi – electric guitar on “Nueva Cubana”)
Born in Havana, Cuba in 1963, Gonzalo Julio Gonzlez Fonseca known to the musical world by his popular name Gonzalo Rubalcaba comes with a family musical heritage having been influenced by his father, pianist Guillermo Rubalcaba. There were numerous music personalities that visited their home as he grew up in Cuba. His influences were also through recordings of Bud Powell, Thelonius Monk, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey, and Dizzy Gillespie. Later while still in Cuba he was playing in venues in Havana. Gonzalo relocated to America. He has received 14 Grammy nominations. He received 2 Grammy’s for Nocturne and Land of the Sun. He earned a degree in music composition from Havana Institute of Fine Arts. His heritage is in Afro Cuban music and was awarded the Vanguard Award by The ASCAP Foundation for “charting new directions in Jazz”.
Century XXI is an ambitious endeavor in pushing the edge of Latin and Afro-Cuban music. In this album Gonzalo works with a core trio of musicians (Gonzalo, Matt Brewer and Marcus Gilmore). He augments the trio on various tracks with other respected musicians. These discs feature three compositions by Gonzalo, and some reworking of compositions of Bill Evans and Lennie Tristano. Also featured is a composition of Matt Brewer, his bassist called “Anthem”. The guest guitarist Lionel Leouke is featured with his composition “Alafia”.
“Nueva Cubana” is the first song of the album (disc 1). The trio is augmented with electric guitar of Gary Galimidi. Gonzalo presents his great piano talents which he is noted for and was thoroughly enjoyable. Bill Evans tune, “Time Remembered” starts very quietly in a soliloquy with just piano it starts building with light brushes on cymbals and transitions to bass soloing taking the lead. About two thirds into the track the tune becomes more recognizable. Almost imperceptibly the tune picks up in rhythm with a quiet finish. With Evans it was a quiet ballad sound and Gonzalo has reworked it into a nice rhythmic Latin sound. “Fifty,” composed by Gonzalo, is another nice changeup, getting a bit funky and pushing the edge with Lionel Leouke augmenting the core trio on guitar and voice. It is a very catchy beat and enjoyable. “Anthem” by the bassist Matt Brewer is a slow experimental melody led by Gonzalo on piano. “Oshun” is a really cool example of Afro-Cuban Jazz with the chant of Pedrito Martinez the percussionist.
“Moore” is a tune of Paul Bley on Disc 2 of the album. It is cutting edge with a lot of improvisation between musicians then starts into a quick walking bass and piano in jazz time. Definitively cutting edge. “Son XXI” is a tune by Enrique Ubieta and literally show cases each instrument. Fine Afro- Cuban percussion, augmented by chorded piano and backing by the bass. “Alafia” is a composition by Lionel Leouke, who is the guitarist and voice as well. The tune starts with bass, percussion and piano engaging call and response. The bass and guitar bring in the main theme with Gonzalo augmenting on piano. Lionel comes in then picking and voicing with the notes. The tune is catchy and interesting, moving towards the cutting edge of the Afro Cuban sound. I would say “Nueva Cubana” and “Son XXI” were my favorites.
Century XXI is an example of an experienced and polished musician and composer in the genre of Afro-Cuban music who like John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and others who reach out to the edge of their music genre seeking that certain sound. The album is nicely packaged in a cardboard case with slip out folded liner notes containing pictures of the musicians. There is a rather esthetic and thoughtful description by Gary Galimidi, the guitarist and Executive Producer. And sound quality is excellent.
CD 1: 1. Nueva Cubana; 2. Time Remembered; 3. Fifty; 4. Anthem; 5. Oshun
CD 2: 1. Moore; 2. Son XXI; 3. Alafia; 4. Lennie’s Pennies; 5. Oshun (short version).
Pure Pleasure Records releases a re-mastered 180-gram vinyl of this late jazz icon.