How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The title of Gonzalo Rubalcaba's latest trio effort bears heavy ironic overtones. While the heavenly flash of light makes regular appearances on Supernova, most of this disc consists of extremely well-grounded pieces with earthy flavors. Like it or not, every single piece here has an intense rhythmic focus. That emphasis on rhythm has been Rubalcaba's signature sound; he expands it here within a variety of moods and styles drawing from North American jazz just as well as traditional Cuban musical forms.
Rubalcaba plays with a fresh, crispy edge on Supernova. One has the sense that each note is a discovery, and the pianist is always deliberately striding forward to get where he wants to be. Though capable of inhuman virtuosity, he mostly holds back here to facilitate a more open group sound. Take the two "Supernova" pieces, for example: accent and filigree occupy the place of fleet runs or rapid-fire chordal punches. It's been said before, but Rubalcaba often plays the piano as an instrument of rhythm, and this effect makes itself most abundantly clear on the pieces which draw most heavily from Latin music sources. It's hard to find much to criticize on Supernova: the rhythm section is impeccable and completely fluent with all the dialects at Rubalcaba's disposal. The pianist himself plays deliberately, precisely, and with a lively flair. The occasional percussion additions by Rubalcaba and the Quinteros only enrich the depth of texture on the pieces where they appear. Rubalcaba's work on the keyboards here is mercifully briefit's hard to understand why he would choose to use such a flaccid voice for this punchy kind of music. While ballads like the languid "Alma Mia" may seem a bit indulgent, they work just fine if you're in the right mood. I personally would like to hear Rubalcaba in a setting with richer percussion, so he could step out in front a bit more often and take more risks. But he's clearly mastered the trio format, and he makes that fact abundantly clear on Supernova.
Track Listing: Supernova 1; El Cadete Constitucional; Alma Mia; La Voz Del Centro; El Manicero; Supernova 2; Otra Mirada; The Hard One; Oren.
Personnel: Gonzalo Rubalcaba: piano, keyboards, percussion; Carlos Henriquez: bass; Ignacio Berroa: drums and rainmaker; Luis Quintero: timbales and guiro; Robert Quintero: congas; Jim Anderson: rainmaker.