311

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Avatar

By

Sign in to view read count
Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Avatar Having matured and no longer needing to prove his chops to others or himself, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba has turned his attention to ensembling and orchestration, and in no other work is this more evident than Avatar. Only after multiple listens does it become clear how the compositions are driving the improvisations and not the other way around, and how the Cuban-born pianist/composer manages a wonderful balance between freedom, interpretation, and restraint, between composition, orchestration, and the soloing of his band mates.



Of Avatar's seven compositions, only one belongs to Rubalcaba, "Infantil (Dedicated to John McLaughlin)," originally written for piano, and which magnificently shows his skills as transcripter and arranger. Fellow Cuban-born saxophonist and composer Yosvany Terry, a talent coming into his own, contributes three tunes—"Looking in Retrospective," "This Is It," and "Hip Side," while young but graceful bassist Matt Brewer chips in with "Aspiring To Normalcy," a ballad or bolero that goes hand-in-hand with the other two compositions, Horace Silver's "Peace" and Alejandro Garcia Cartula's "Preludio Corto No.2 For Piano (Tu Amor Era Falso)."



Also backed by unassuming drummer Marcus Gilmore and trumpeter/flugelhornist Mike Rodriguez—both of whom, despite not given much solo time, add color and texture to each piece—Rubalcaba has surrounded himself with a top-of-the-line ensemble that has the feel of a big band or orchestra rather than a quintet, in the process redefining or doing away with the term Latin jazz. Indeed, it is as if Rubalcaba's saying: "This is just good, challenging music, so forget the genre." Highlights include an impeccable rendition of "Peace," "Hip Side," and "Infantil (Dedicated to John McLaughlin)."



Not taking anything away from the improvisations which are so appropriately intertwined with the compositions themselves, but like Andrew Hill's Dusk (Palmetto Records, 2000), Avatar is about the music and its architecture. Rather than being about the players per se, it's about the compositions and how each member or component of the quintet comes together to recreate them piece by piece, time and time again. With wonderful music and an even grander vision, Avatar is one of the top releases of this or any other year.


Track Listing: Looking in Retrospective; This Is It; Aspiring to Normalcy; Peace; Hip Side; Infantil; Preludio Corto No. 2 for Piano (Tu Amor Era Falso).

Personnel: Gonzalo Rubalcaba: piano, keyboards; Yosvany Terry: alto, soprano & tenor saxophones, percussion; Mike Rodriguez: trumpet, flugelhorn; Matt Brewer: acoustic bass; Marcus Gilmore: drums.

Title: Avatar | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Masters In Bordeaux CD/LP/Track Review Masters In Bordeaux
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 19, 2017
Read On Parade In Parede CD/LP/Track Review On Parade In Parede
by John Sharpe
Published: August 19, 2017
Read Good Merlin CD/LP/Track Review Good Merlin
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 19, 2017
Read I Believe In You CD/LP/Track Review I Believe In You
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 18, 2017
Read Morning Sun CD/LP/Track Review Morning Sun
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 18, 2017
Read The Conscience CD/LP/Track Review The Conscience
by John Sharpe
Published: August 18, 2017
Read "Sing House" CD/LP/Track Review Sing House
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 11, 2017
Read "Reimagined" CD/LP/Track Review Reimagined
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 8, 2017
Read "All The Dreams" CD/LP/Track Review All The Dreams
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 12, 2016
Read "Mask Dance" CD/LP/Track Review Mask Dance
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 3, 2017
Read "Circles" CD/LP/Track Review Circles
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 24, 2017
Read "Taylor Street" CD/LP/Track Review Taylor Street
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 3, 2016

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.