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 is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.