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Gonzalo Rubalcaba


kad

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Man I wish I could locate the version of Spain they did at the Blue note

 

Oh well here is another one of Chick Corea and Gonzalo in 95 playing Spain

 

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I probably first heard him 20 years ago, and he quickly became my favourite jazz pianist. His albums were very hard to find at the time due to the Cuba embargo; even though the label was Canadian. At the time, he went back and forth between acoustic jazz (especially solo piano) and synth-laden experimental stuff.

 

Once he got popular in the US (which only happened after he emigrated to DOminican Republic, from whence he would be allowed to tour here), he dropped the experimental stuff, the composing, and most solo work, in favour of straight-ahead work, which hasn't interested me nearly as much.

 

I saw him a few years ago with a trio and there was no passion. I was deeply disappointed. I haven't followed him since.

 

When I was visiting his homeland on a US government-sponsored tour ten years ago (there was a brief opening-up towards the later Clinton years), I filled in all the missing pieces to my collection, and also met his father, who is the "house pianist" at the hotel that I stayed at in La Habana (Hotel Inglaterra, which is Spanish for England). That was quite a thrill.

 

His early work is quite amazing, and pulls influences from across the jazz, afro-cuban, classical and even pop spectrum.

 

I am particularly fond of his Concierto Negro, which was his answer to Duke Ellington's Ebony Symphony. A truly mature work, and yet I think he was only 24 at the time he wrote it (1987).

 

I think mlost of the musicians he worked with in his Septet in the late 80's are still in Cuba, but here's a list in case anyone is inclined tgo look them up and see where they are today:

 

Manuel Valera: soprano saxophone, alto saxophone

Rafael Carrasco: tenor saxophone, flute

Lazaro Cruz: trumpet, flugelhorn

Felipe Cabrero: string bass, bass guitar, bassoon

Horacio Hernandez: drums

Roberto Vizcaino: percussion

 

Coincident with this mostly-acoustic flavoured line-up, he had the Nueva Cubana Sextet (I think that was its name):

 

Reynaldo Melian: trumpet

Mario Garcia: guitars, synthesizers

Felipe Cabrero: string bass, bass guitar, bassoon

Horacio Hernandez: drums

Roberto Vizcaino: percussion

 

Notice the rhythm section was shared between the two entities. I do not personally feel that he has found as good a match with anyone he has worked with in the US -- even my hero Charlie Haden (though Haden has probably been his most sympathetic collaborator).

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Warning! Gonzalo is not to be listened to while driving. I've almost driven right off the road while listening and trying to follow his playing.

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A lot of locals resent "Buena Vista Social Club" because they feel it turned the country into a living music museum for European tourists and that it is stunting further development of newer styles.

 

I can see their point, but one should also respect one's elders :-).

 

Cuba has long been a bastion for the arts; even before Fidel Castro. San Francisco Ballet has several dancers from there (amongst the best), and it has always been a happening place for jazz.

 

Before Castro, many American jazz artists toured down there and in turn were influenced by what they heard from the locals.

 

I have never been anywhere in my life where the jazz music was so energetic and passionate. I even transcribed a few bass lines hoping to learn something from the experience, as I was being challenged in new ways. I regret not bringing an instrument, as there was a sax player on the trip and she sat in numerous times. I should have brought my clarinet (bass is too big).

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I've said it before and I'll say it again: I can watch a video like that and be dazzled by the sheer virtuosity of the musicians, but I just don't get the music at all. Jazz music, even when played by guys who are undeniable masters, always makes me go, "Wow, can those guys friggin' play!" But it doesn't move me at all or generate any emotions within me.

 

Someone please tell me how to "get" this music. I just don't, and I know that I should!!

 

(And, for those of you who have seen some of my previous posts about my love for things like heavy metal, don't assume that I'm just a neanderthal when it comes to finer musical art. I grew up studying classical music, and I am a big fan of many, many classical composers and a wide variety of classical music from solo piano concertos to string quartets to symphonies.)

 

Noah

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One of the most notable things about Gonzalo (and most great players) is that he sounds as amazing when he is playing with great restraint as when he is showing his astounding chops.
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When I was visiting his homeland on a US government-sponsored tour ten years ago (there was a brief opening-up towards the later Clinton years), I filled in all the missing pieces to my collection, and also met his father, who is the "house pianist" at the hotel that I stayed at in La Habana (Hotel Inglaterra, which is Spanish for England).

 

I'd like to hear more about the trip; you seem to have a real affinity for the people and the music there.

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How to get it? It's like an exhilarating high speed chase...like a downhill skier going faster than anybody has ever seen before...like driving a race car faster than the speed of sound...or a jet soaring straight up and out of earth's atmosphere...exciting stuff. All executed with amazing clarity and gracefulness.

 

Now go and transcribe it!

 Find 660 of my jazz piano arrangements of standards for educational purposes and tutorials at www.Patreon.com/HarryLikas Harry was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."

 

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Gonzalo has played in Italy quite often. He's just absurd... in the most virtuosic moments, he looks like a video in accelerated motion!

 

He has been a child prodigy, and like many Cuban musicians, he plays several instruments and composes. Personally, I find his pre-USA works more interesting too. He has given up the most 'outside' elements of his music.

 

BTW that athletic, superhuman side of his playing is present in many musicians from that part of South America, especially pianists. There is a competitive side, but also exchange of information and extreme respect for each other. There's a few of them working in Italy too, and I just love their spirit and their musicianship.

 

Back to Gonzalo: If we want to act really nasty, we could notice that neither him nor the trumpet player are *always* exactly on the changes of "Giant Steps" during the solos... but at that breackneck speed, that could be forgiven. ;)

 

 

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I think it would be hard for anybody to "get it"....especially that tune at that tempo.

 

I'm going to go out on a limb here....that version left me cold as well. It was like hearing someone play the Chopin op. 10 #4 C#m Etude at 175=quarter note. OK, wow, unbelievable, amazing, but really....where is the music?

 

Trane recorded that about 132-136=half note. (I just checked to be sure) His version is swingin' its ass off...sorry, I just don't get that same emotional connection here. For me...the harmonic connection that makes this tune so great was lost...plus, it just wasn't swingin'.

 

This tune, for all you non-jazzers, is considered the Mt. Everest of the repertoire. Many, many versions of this tune has been waxed over the years. Two of my personal favorites aside from the original are pianist David Kikoski's trio version w/ Al Foster and Essiet Essiet. ('94 on Sony/Epicure, out of print I believe)

DK's version is uptempo, but for me, never loses the original concept of the tune...in fact DK breaks into a ridiculous stride interlude in the middle complete with atonal penatonic lines on top of the LH pattern....I still can hear the harmonic outline has it pertains to the changes. Then the bass and drums come back in perfect sync...omazing!!

One other extreme is, Pat Metheny's "Trio 99>00 w/ Larry Grenadier and Bill Stewart. They play it way down(tempo) alternating between straight eight and bossa.....beautiful!

 

Like Marino said, they are very loose with the changes here...for me,a tune that difficult played at that tempo loses the connection with music and veers into the "higher, faster, louder" category.

 

Don't get me wrong...I love Gonzalo's playing. Who can dispute his obvious mastery of his instrument, plus the insurmountable odds he's probably had to over come in his life to play jazz music at the level he's at. You all are right, his playing does have a out of this world, superhuman quality to it.

 

When a musician really matures however, I think the music, warmth, emotion and communication are the real "chops".

 

Of course, this is all just one guy's opinion.

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It was like hearing someone play the Chopin op. 10 #4 C#m Etude at 175=quarter note.

175? Try this... :D

 

When a musician really matures however, I think the music, warmth, emotion and communication are the real "chops".

The alarming thing is, Gonzalo loves to play beautiful ballads with deep, concentrated phrasing. He's a very mature musician. But since he has based his huge North-American success on being a supervirtuoso, maybe (just maybe) he feels the need to reaffirm that kind of reputation.

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I saw him last summer at the Jazz fest. He's great.

Check out his 2 discs with Charlie Haden (Nocturne & Land Of The Sun).

He's done some nice rhodes stuff with Al Di Meola on Flesh On Flesh as well.

His drummer/bassist are awesome too.

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OK, I've never heard it sound that musical at that tempo.

Richter was the Tatum of Classical music....I had him at around 192 give or take.

I still think 144-160 gets the point across.

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Gonzalo is obviously a monster and I certainly will never attain the speed and ability that he has. But I have to say it leaves me cold. I find it overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time. There is no heart in it just technique from what I could see and hear.

 

I find jazz the best when there is expression and dynamics in the playing.

 

Sorry I don't feel it but I do respect his awesome talent.

Jimmy

 

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Thees another great pianist, Spain I think, Tete Montilou, comes to NY every once in a while to play, absolute killer and he's blind if Im not mistaken. Only have 1 recording of his, w/Braxton, old LP, but I havent heard much about him or know where in the world he is.

 

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yeah, Gonzalo is just ridiculous. Humbling doesn't even come close

+1 :thu:

 

My thoughts until I snap back into reality, realizing cats like him are virtuoso musicians i.e. born to do it. ;)

 

I can watch a video like that and be dazzled by the sheer virtuosity of the musicians, but I just don't get the music at all.

 

Someone please tell me how to "get" this music. I just don't, and I know that I should!!

 

(And, for those of you who have seen some of my previous posts about my love for things like heavy metal, don't assume that I'm just a neanderthal when it comes to finer musical art. I grew up studying classical music, and I am a big fan of many, many classical composers and a wide variety of classical music from solo piano concertos to string quartets to symphonies.)

 

Noah

Regardless of genre/style, we "get it" when the music speaks to our sensibilities. I listen to a little bit of everything and depending upon how it resonates with me, either I get it or not.

 

I love jazz but not all of it. Same goes for R&B, Hip-Hop, Rock, etc. Just a matter of finding tunes/musicians/bands you dig and going from there. :cool:

 

 

PD

 

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Tete was a monster as well. I loved his playing...loosely a cross between OP and Mcoy Tyner.

 

Unfortunately he passed away a few years back.

 

Matter of fact, he recorded a version of Giant Steps w/ Neils-Henning Orsted Pederson and Albert "Tootie" Heath. The title is simply "Tete!"

(Recorded in Copenhagen, 1974 LP Inner City IC2029...good luck finding this one)

 

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The alarming thing is, Gonzalo loves to play beautiful ballads with deep, concentrated phrasing. He's a very mature musician. But since he has based his huge North-American success on being a supervirtuoso, maybe (just maybe) he feels the need to reaffirm that kind of reputation.

 

You're right...I agree. I have an early record of him playing "Soul Eyes" that is just gorgeous.

This version just isn't my thing.

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I saw him with his trio 3-4 years ago, I went expecting to be blown away by his pyrotechnics, instead, I was deeply moved by the sensitivity and musicality. Amazing show, my wife loved it as well.

Turn up the speaker

Hop, flop, squawk

It's a keeper

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Regardless of genre/style, we "get it" when the music speaks to our sensibilities. I listen to a little bit of everything and depending upon how it resonates with me, either I get it or not.

 

I love jazz but not all of it. Same goes for R&B, Hip-Hop, Rock, etc. Just a matter of finding tunes/musicians/bands you dig and going from there. :cool:

 

I hear what you're saying. I consider myself a fan of many types of music (from rock to classical to hip-hop to show tunes), but that doesn't mean that I like every rock band out there or every Broadway show ever written. Far from it! So I see your point.

 

That said, with jazz, it's feels somehow different to me. I feel like I've made an effort to access the genre from a number of different angles and through a number of different artists, and I feel like I should like (because I like so many other different styles of music). I just can't seem to get to a point, however, where any of it speaks to my sensibilities (to use your phrase, which is a good one). In fact, my reaction to jazz is much like my parents' reaction to heavy metal: It's just noise. Virtuosic noise, perhaps (and perhaps not as offensive to my ears as heavy metal is to my parents'), but noise nonetheless. (Sacrilege! I know.) I can't hear melody. I can't hear song structure. I can't hear/feel emotion. I just hear these crazy runs and lightning fast, complex chord progressions, and that's it. All of which suggests to me that I simply lack a fundamental understanding of the art form itself (or that I am, in fact, a musical neanderthal despite my protestations to the contrary).

 

Anyway, I guess I'll go bang my head listening to some Iron Maiden. It may be far less intellectual than jazz, but that music speaks to me!

 

Peace to all my musical brothers,

Noah

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