Don't let the title of Gonzalo Rubalcaba's latest disc, Solo
, fool you, this is a deep, complex recording that's rich with layers and nuance. Of course, that shouldn't surprise fans of the Cuban-born pianist's work. He's been exploring the outer reaches of Afro-Cuban jazz for nearly 20 years now. This time around, he puts his virtuosic fingers to work on a series of 15 stripped-down tracks, combining traditional themes from his homeland with the unique harmonies and rhythms of his thoroughly modern sound.
It all starts out with the quick and breezy Rubalcaba original, "Rezo (Praise Be)." Clocking it at just over a minute and a half, the selection makes for a nice, subdued introduction to the record, and lays the groundwork for the pianist's solo style. Things pick up a bit with "Quasar," a sprawling, improv-heavy composition that runs Rubalcaba up and down the keyboard, as well as the composer's own "Paseo Azul" and the complex "Paseo en Media Luz."
belongs to the quiet, introspective ballad, and Rubalcaba dishes them out in spades. A lilting bolero entitled "Silencio" speaks for itself, as does the fifth track, "Cancion Para Dormir en el Sillon (Lullaby)." There's some slow stuff on this disc, that's for sure, but it's all well done and fresh, never boring. Down tempo versions of "Here's That Rainy Day" and "Besame Mucho" round out the highlights.
Through it all, Rubalcaba's piano carries the disc with a light, breezy ease that's surprising, especially given all of the slow selections on Solo.
It's a refreshing, Sunday morning sort of record that refuses to blend into the background.