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Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Solo (2006)

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Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Solo How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

This solo piano album from Gonzalo Rubalcaba finds the artist searching. With themes from Afro-Cuban culture running through his performance, he improvises soulfully and at his own pace. As one of the jazz world's most exciting pianists, he's able to sit down, take his time, and let the ideas flow gently. Each piece represents a passionate ordeal, both introspective and lush.

Rubalcaba keeps his program under the radar for the most part. Quiet lullabies, gentle boleros and soft-spoken improvs give the album a dreamy impression. He allows harmony to settle gracefully while melodies float on a summer breeze. The pianist, hurrying nothing, allows plenty of time for his ideas to grow.

Crisp keyboard cascades tie these dreamy themes together, but the session mellows for the most part with very little animation. Each idea is shrouded in dreamland. "Here's That Rainy Day, for example, advances slowly and delicately with caterpillar-like movements. The gentleness of Rubalcaba's touch fits the song's lyric to a tee. The same is true of Charlie Haden's "Nightfall, which is interpreted peacefully, as if shimmering at lakeside in the moonlight when the air is damp with fog and morning dew.

The exception comes with "Prólogo. Here Rubalcaba does what he does best, improvising on a popular theme and making it his own. He still finds space in his exploratory interpretation for dreamy soliloquies, but the excitement is all there. And it's powerful. The pianist makes us wait for this moment, and it's always worth the anticipation. Ultimately he lights an inspiring fire.


Track Listing: Rezo (Praise Be!); Quasar; Silencio (Silence); Improv #1; Cancin para Dormir en el Sillon (Lullaby); Improv #2; Cancin de Cuna del Nio Negro (Lullaby for a Black Child); Faro (Beacon); Improv #3; Suea de Muecas (Dream of the Dolls); Improv #4; Prlogo (Prologue to a Fantasy); Here's That Rainy Day; Nightfall; Besame Mucho.

Personnel: Gonzalo Rubalcaba: piano.

Record Label: Blue Note Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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