The second posthumously released duo album featuring Charlie Haden. The first last year was with Jim Hall recorded in Montreal in 1990. This latest one, poetically titled as Tokyo Adagio, is more recent, Haden duetting with the Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba and draws from a March 2005 Blue Note Tokyo club four-night residency. The polite audience reaction and applause is respectful and the sound of a few knives and forks neither here nor there in the background not distracting: the album feels lived in, which is far better than clinical.
Gonzalo Julio Gonzalez Fonseca was born in post-revolutionary Havana into a musical family rich in the traditions of the country’s artistic past. During his childhood, in addition to the standard fare of elementary schools, Gonzalo absorbed the Cuban musical heritage of his nascent environment through personal contacts within his family, notably his father, pianist Guillermo Rubalcaba and his two brothers (pianist and bassist) as well as from leading musicians who were frequent houseguests: Frank Emilio, Peruchin, Felipe Dulzaides and others. He also assimilated, through scarce and treasured recordings, the tunes and styles of 40's – 70's US jazz masters: Thelonius Monk,Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson among pianists; and instrumentalists Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey…
After taking the jazz world by storm with his exciting debut CD on Blue Note in 1991, Gonzalo Rubalcaba continued to delight his fans throughout the decade with one great recording after another. "Yolanda Anas," "Joan," and "Joao" – each one a tribute to one of his children – are intimate musical portraits that have a childlike simplicity, but also memorable melodies that linger in the mind. A salute to Blue Note president Bruce Lundvall is a complex post-bop blues featuring fierce solos by tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker and bassist Jeff Chambers.
This was the first of Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba's recordings to appear in the United States, and it's a stunning introduction to his work. He's more than ably supported by Charlie Haden and Jack DeJohnette, with Haden's fundamentalist approach to the bass acting as a secure anchor to Rubalcaba's frequent flights of virtuosity and DeJohnette's polyrhythmic approach. With his deep roots in the rhythmic language of Cuban music, Rubalcaba brings a subtle and complex pulse to even his most reflective moments at the keyboard. He's also rooted in some of the more adventurous paths that jazz took in the 1960s, as that stellar rhythm section would suggest. It shows in the original approaches that he finds to Coltrane's "Giant Steps," Bill Evans's "Blue in Green," and Ornette Coleman's "The Blessing."
One of the most important figures to emerge from Afro-Cuban jazz in the '90s, Gonzalo Rubalcaba is an extraordinarily versatile pianist able to blend disparate strands of Cuban and American jazz tradition into a fresh, modern whole.
Gorgeous and sensitive, this edition of Solos: The Jazz Sessions might seem a bit disingenuous, even antithetical to many notions of jazz, simply due to the effortless, slick way in which it's put together. Though seemingly conflicted in part for a document of jazz, this disk in the end serves up a truly tasty assortment, almost a full hour of fantastic music and sumptuous visuals. I suppose it's up to you, after reading this, to decide if you want your jazz delivered to the table in such fashion.