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Ruben Gonzalez: Introducing Ruben Gonzalez

One of the players on that album as well as the Afro-Cuban All-Stars’ A Toda Cuba le Gusta (World Circuit/Nonesuch 047; 55:49) is the dazzling 77-year-old pianist Ruben Gonzalez, well-known in his time but inactive in recent years, reportedly due to arthritis. There’s nothing at all arthritic about his playing on the fiery, funky album Introducing…Ruben Gonzalez (World Circuit/Nonesuch 049; 46:00). With his masterful and mischievous improvisational voice, Gonzalez epitomizes the dynamic piano tradition from Cuba, heard in salsa bands and in such intense players as Gonzalo Rubalcaba. But there’s something sweet and organic, a touch of Monk-ishness, about his playing, too. Listen to his solo on “Mandinga,” all suave octave runs, chromatic dervish dancing, and an appreciation for spaces and densities. It’s a candidate for solo of the year.

Originally Published