Intense and beautiful, Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba's new Fe' ... Faith, is this meditative wonder. Like the earth making its inevitable yearly circle, Rubalcaba returns time after time to themes and thoughtsbut never approaches things exactly the same twice.
Across 15 solo piano pieces, he eventually smashes through barriers between jazz, classical and pop musicsomething that underscores the record's one-world message of love and faith. That, despite the fact that it would have been easy for Fe' ... Faith, issued on June 1 as the initial release from Rubalcaba's newly founded 5Passion label, to have gotten lost in a kind of arid stoicism.
After all, Rubalcaba dabbles in modern symphonic music from his homeland on Preludio Corto No. 2," written by Alejandro Garcia Carturia; the rhythmic cadence of the Cuba's sanctified three-bata-drum ensemble on Derivado 1"; and a whisper of Bach into a tune written for Rubalcaba's daughter Joan. That last track, though, is part of a centerpiece three-song sequence dedicated to his children, two daughters and a son"Joan," then the Gershwin-inspired Joao" and Yolanda Anas." Each, though markedly different in tone, incorporates a touching childlike wonder that belies Rubalcaba's lengthy and celebrated career. And, despite its deeply emotional subject matter, that's actually in keeping with the rest of the album.
Rubalcaba, for all of his wandering, never lets go of jazz music's central vibrancy and intriguereferencing John Coltrane's Giant Steps" in his own Improvisation 2," Dizzy Gillespie on Con Alma 1," and covering the Miles Davis-Bill Evans composition Blue In Green." He deconstructs, and reconstructs, the track Maferefun Iya Lodda Me," like an afternoon in the woodshed, across the breadth of Fe' ... Faith. Blue In Green 2" (transformed from a familiar contemplative mood into this sweetly swinging delight) and Con Alma 3," perhaps inevitably follow.
By the time Rubalcaba returns, once more, to the Maferefun" theme on the closing Derivado 3," the circular, connected implications inherent in Fe' ... Faith are utterly clear. Like family, like faith, like jazz, it all comes back around again.
I love jazz because it swings.
I was first exposed to jazz in Houston.
I met Joe LoCascio and Bob Henschen.
The best show I ever attended was Pat Martino.
The first jazz record I bought was Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
My advice to new listeners is to relax on 2 and 4 beats.