All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

113

Ruben Gonzalez: Momentos

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
This is one of those evenly tempered and prettily mellifluous albums which sound at first like background music, but which reveal a subtle and sophisticated beauty if you pay closer attention. Like guitarist Johnny Smith's transcendental '52 masterpiece Moonlight In Vermont, this roughly contemporaneous compilation of archive recordings by Cuban pianist Ruben Gonzalez sounds superficially like the output of a hotel lounge band playing politely for the well-heeled tourist trade. It never strays far from tune or pulse and it definitely won't frighten the horses... cue footage from Dr. No or any early James Bond movie shot in the Caribbean.

Momentos isn't a transcendental masterpiece, it has to said, but it is a quietly beguiling collection of small- and big-band dance music from the mid '50s through early '70s. Cuban roots aficionados will find much to enjoy in Gonzalez's easy mastery of son, bolero, and cha cha chá. Born in 1919, he was among the first Cubans to introduce piano to son ensembles during the '40s. He spent most of the '50s working in nightclub and radio bands in Venezuela, Panama, Colombia, and Argentina, returning to Havana in the early '60s and going on to play with Enrique Jorrin's Orchestra for over twenty years. He acquired an international reputation in the mid '90s through his work with Buena Vista Social Club. He died in 2003.

A few of the tracks—"Date Una Vueltecita," "Como Siento Yo," and "Nuestra Cancion"—do indeed verge perilously close to piano/bass/percussion trio cocktail music. But even they repay attention for the guileless and gently infectious pleasure they take in melody. There are only two real dogs, "Indestructible" and "Tu Corazon Otra Vez," both of which feature a Wurlitzer organ which sounds like it was played by Alice Coltrane (and I'm a fan) on bad acid (I mean, really bad acid).

The most interesting tracks are those recorded with big bands. "Enriqueta" has an undeniably cheesy horn arrangement—think Lawrence Welk, not Cuban All-Stars—but is saved by the gloriously blowsy high-note trumpet work of Jorge Varona. Three tracks recorded with trombonist Pucho Escalante's jazz orchesta are the real gems, with nothing remotely cheesy about their Ellington-inspired charts. The edgy, Anatomy Of A Murder-reminiscent "Zancudo" has great trombone, sax, and vibes solos, and there's more class trombone work on the pensive "Que Infelicidad" and bluesy "Fantoche." A duet with bassist Fabian Carturia, "Fabiando," and the piano/bass/percussion trios on "Mil Congojas" and "Yo Te Enseno Lola" are all vibrant small-group tracks.

Excellently remastered, Momentos is let down only by the poorly annotated liner notes, which are virtually bereft of personnel and other session details. But that's a minor quibble, and it doesn't get in the way of some great music.


Track Listing: Date Una Vueltecita; Enriqueta; Fabiando; Como Siente Yo; Nuestra Cancion; Prestame La Bicicleta; Indestructible; Ambrosio; Mil Congojas; Zancudo; Yo Te Enseno Lola; Que Infelicidad; Fantoche; Tu Corazon Otra Vez; Todo Aquel Ayer.

Personnel: Ruben Gonzalez, piano. Plus various personnel not listed in liner notes.

Title: Momentos | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Escondida Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Oscar Peterson Plays CD/LP/Track Review
Oscar Peterson Plays
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 23, 2018
Read State Of The Baritone Volume 2 CD/LP/Track Review
State Of The Baritone Volume 2
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 23, 2018
Read Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume one) CD/LP/Track Review
Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume one)
by Chris May
Published: April 23, 2018
Read Friends & Family CD/LP/Track Review
Friends & Family
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 23, 2018
Read Northern Migrations CD/LP/Track Review
Northern Migrations
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 22, 2018
Read Egregore CD/LP/Track Review
Egregore
by John Eyles
Published: April 22, 2018
Read "Morphogenesis" CD/LP/Track Review Morphogenesis
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 12, 2017
Read "RFK Stadium 1989 Box" CD/LP/Track Review RFK Stadium 1989 Box
by Doug Collette
Published: December 3, 2017
Read "Truth Decay" CD/LP/Track Review Truth Decay
by John Kelman
Published: March 7, 2018
Read "Dream Within A Dream" CD/LP/Track Review Dream Within A Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 22, 2017
Read "The Tronosonic Experience" CD/LP/Track Review The Tronosonic Experience
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 9, 2017
Read "Autumn Tales" CD/LP/Track Review Autumn Tales
by Chris Mosey
Published: June 20, 2017