Release date: February 5th 2008
Availability: CD, MP3 Download, iTunes
Discovered by Charlie Haden on a tour of Cuba, Gonzalo Rubalcaba was pronounced a major undiscovered jazz talent at the 1990 Montreux Jazz festival. Signed by Blue Note and twelve albums later somehow his music has not succeeded in having quite the impact promised by that early breakthrough.
This is surely set to change with the release of "Avatar" which should lead to a revaluing of his achievement so far.
Setting aside the plan to produce a further trio album, Gonzalo Rubalcaba assembled a new quintet of rising New York based musicians who had not previously played together as a quintet, gigged briefly and then booked a four day session at Avatar Recording Studios (hence the album title). The result is breathtaking, fresh, groundbreaking jazz that situates itself productively at the intersection of post bop and Afro-cuban jazz.
In achieving this it is significant that Yosvany Terry Cabrera (he now mostly drops the surname) is a key player in this new quintet. A fellow Cuban, he moved to New York in 1999 and is an emerging saxophone talent and composer, having released his own album as leader ("Metamorphosis" on Kindred Rhythm). He contributes three compositions to the album ("Looking In Retropsective", "This Is It" and "Hip Side").
Also influential in this new chemistry is Marcus Gilmore, grandson of jazz drummer Roy Haynes. His experise in latin together with jazz and rock percussion is fully on show here. One of the defining moments of "Avatar" is right at the start of the opening track "Looking In Retropsective" when the near classical sounding solo piano of Gonzalo Rubalcaba is broken up by the introduction of Marcus Gilmore's drumming and you know that something very special is going to happen on the album – reminiscent perhaps of the young Tony Williams' infuence in Miles Davis' second great quintet. Certainly this is amongst the most impressive percussion heard on a jazz album in many years.
"Infantil (Dedicated to John Mclaughlin)" the single Gonzalo Rubalcaba composition, joins "Looking In Retrospective", "This Is It " and "Hip Side" in developing the exuberant, upbeat side of the album.
Matt Brewer who appeared on Greg Osby's 2005 album "Channel Three", plays well conceived bass lines and contributes the compositon "Aspiring to Normalcy", which develops as a lyrical, meditative counterpoint to the out and out exuberance of these tracks. This is followed by a very beautiful version of the Horace Silver composition "Peace". Together with "Preludio Corto No. 2 for Piano (Tu amor era falso)" by the mid-20th century Cuban composer Alejandro Garcia Caturla, these three pieces show the other side of the new chemistry discovered by the quintet, a continuation of Gonzalo Rubalcaba's exploration of more meditative material and, perhaps, a reflection of the classical training of all these musicians.
The quintet is completed by Mike Rodriguez on trumpet / flugelhorn who plays with the Charlie Haden/Liberation Music Orchestra. He adds depth and inspiration throughout.
Overall, this fine album has all the hallmarks of a major breakthrough, of a new quintet emerging that could be prominent for years to come. As the quintet continues to gig and prepares to tour, the truth of such predictions will depend on the quality of the much deserved recognition that it receives.
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