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Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Avatar

Avatar has more edginess, more currency, than any of Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s other 12 Blue Note recordings. Or half of it does. The other half is rapt, poetic ballads. The two halves intermingle and cohere.

Rubalcaba describes Avatar as his “New York album,” and one half of this acoustic session is electric with restless New York energy. His new quintet includes four of New York’s hottest young players: Yosvany Terry (reeds), Mike Rodriguez (trumpet), Matt Brewer (bass) and Marcus Gilmore (drums). Within Rubalcaba’s group concepts, they rarely sound like they are soloing. Rubalcaba’s arrangements postulate challenging sets of ideas, then subject them to fresh perspectives as they flow from one player to another. Terry’s “Looking in Retrospective” quivers and boils for 10 minutes, provoking scurrying, interactive forays from the two horns and piano. Terry also wrote “This Is It” and “Hip Side,” tricky lines over wicked grooves that could be Afro-Cuban, but evolve.

The other half includes Brewer’s “Aspiring to Normalcy,” a dark, whispering, enigmatic ritual, and a gentle, crystalline interpretation of Horace Silver’s “Peace.” Preludio Corto No. 2 For Piano is by Cuban composer Alejandro Garcia Caturia. Its subtitle is “Tu Amor Era Falso,” and its overwhelming sadness slowly coalesces.

What unites the two halves is Rubalcaba. Through diverse moods and intensities, his piano always sings.

Originally Published