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Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Paseo

The very first sounds you hear are those of pianist Rubalcaba playing a cute, childlike martial theme solo, filled with innocence. Eventually, drummer Ignacio Berroa sneaks in, joined by electric bassist Jose Armando Gola. By the time soprano saxophonist Luis Felipe Lamoglia “takes over,” the key changes, the mood shifts and Rubalcaba never looks back. From track two on, the Cuban takes a different kind of Paseo (the title means “walk”): Rubalcaba uses it as “Paseo Con Fula,” which means walking with his dog, Fula. But when compared with his last effort for Blue Note, the Grammy-nominated Supernova, this album is a paseo on the wild side: Hints of fusion; more time than one would expect devoted to Lamoglia, who doubles on alto and tenor; occasional funky textures where Rubalcaba sounds like he’s playing his acoustic and electric keyboards simultaneously-and I’m just guessing because that’s how muddy the sound can get at times. But one thing is crystal clear, which certainly renders the complaint moot: The caliber of musicianship is incredibly high-on everyone’s part. And apropos of that, whose career is it anyway? Rubalcaba can go in any direction he damn well pleases, as long as he keeps his virtuosity at the level his fans have come to expect.

Since Lamoglia dominates the session, note his soprano solo on “Quasar,” which is his high point. He and Rubalcaba engage in some interesting “small talk” as that track winds down following a burning drum solo by Berroa. There are certainly many outstanding solo moments for the leader, rest assured. His best opportunity to stretch out and run wild over the (electric) ivories comes on “Preludio en Conga.”

Originally Published