Gonzalo Rubalcaba Trio – Supernova

Gonzalo Rubalcaba TrioGonzalo Rubalcaba Trio
(Blue Note – 2001)
by Phyllis A. Lodge

Pianist, composer and ensemble leader Gonzalo Rubalcaba is quietly in your face, encompassing sounds from all aspects of himself. Rubalcaba taps equally into all aspects of his musical influences – Cuban, African, European and Caribbean.

Supernova 1 is explosively dramatic, yet lyrically profound. Rubalcaba zaps you with ingenious percussive patterns and gentle chords. This powerful image introduced me to Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s piano. I was floored.

El Cadete Constitucional is a marching, poetic smile-inducer. The CD notes reveal that Rubalcaba’s grandfather wrote it a century ago. A delightful surprise awaits those of you who recognize this tune.

Rubalcaba poignantly solos just a bit on the Mexican standard, Alma Mia (Soul of Mine) which flows into a whispering, meditative piece when his musical colleagues join in. And in his original, La Voz Del Centro (The Voice in Between) Rubalcaba swirls into multiple directions — perhaps between his thoughts. He swings it enough to keep you us aboard, though. Carlos Enriquez surfaces from time to time while drummer Ignacio Berrora steps out in brilliant, brief solo.

El Manicero (The Peanut Vendor). Rubalcaba plays this familiar classic as if for the very first time, like the joy of new love. A rich musical painting, it intensifies and peaks.

Supernova 2 emanates that lingering light generated by Supernova 1. Rubalcaba engages one stream of thought after another. The music of the three musicians orbits one another in lovely order. Otra Mirada (Another View) is a beautiful piece like twilight, and the drums on this one intrigues.

The Hard One (Trio Version) makes you pay attention with its intricate piano phrasing. The trio works this one righteously. Space travel without the hazards.

The final number opens up into infinity? Such wonderful sounds Rubalcaba commands here. I always listen to a couple of bars before looking at the title. Ah, but of course — Oren (Pray).

Supernova is inspirational. Gonzalo Rubalcaba has such a beautiful take on the music. It is interesting to note that most of Howard Mandell’s metaphors in his liner notes are ‘heavenly’ ones, so in closing, I quote Mandell. He says:

“Rubalcaba is on a mission to fix Afro-Cuban-American music where it belongs, among the most prominent constellations in the sky.” I couldn’t have put it better.