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Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Supernova

Pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, blessed with impeccable technique and soulful ideas that draw from the Cuban traditions and the contemporary harmonies of jazz and classical music, is at a new plateau in his career with Supernova. The CD is a stellar mix of updated Cuban standards and his own forward-thinking compositions. The majority of the album features the trio of Rubalcaba, bassist Carlos Henriquez and drummer Ignacio Berroa, but some tracks feature the percussion work of cousins Luis and Robert Quintero.

Much like Keith Jarrett, Rubalcaba has the ability to lift the traditional into something out of the ordinary, as he does on the superb, stylish contemporary reworking early 1900s danzon “El Cadete Constitucional,” written by his grandfather. Rubalcaba’s juxtaposition of “Stars & Stripes” into the song’s theme adds an ironic twist and makes a point about the musical relationship between North American and Cuba.

The introspective ballads “Alma Mia (Soul of Mine)” and the modal “La Voz del Centro (The Voice in Between)” are old wines in new bottles and, much like Rubalcaba’s recent work on Charlie Haden’s Nocturne (Verve), draws from the classic Latin American songbook for inspiration. “El Manicero (The Peanut Vendor)” is a tour de force with Berroa and the Quintero’s creating a percussive tapestry for Rubalcaba to swing on top, though I think we all might have been better off without the cheesy synthesizer solo at the end. This slight misstep, however, doesn’t ground the otherwise brilliant Supernova.

Originally Published