Gonzalo Rubalcaba is releasing his seventh in a string of Blue Note albums--due in no small part to the perseverance of Blue Note president Bruce Lundvall. For Lundvall circumvented trade embargoes to bring Rubalcaba’s music to the United States through a Japanese label while Rubalcaba still lived in Cuba. Another of Rubalcaba’s staunch supporters is his personal manager, Juan Carlos Quesada, the executive producer of Supernova
and Rubalcaba’s good friend who facilitates the pianists’ work so that he can concentrate on artistry instead of logistics.
While Rubalcaba’s music involves elements of jazz--and while Berroa wants to make clear that he’s a jazz
drummer and not a Latin percussionist--Rubalcaba is steeped from beginning to end in the tradition of Cuban music in its many forms.
So much so that the tune, "El Cadete Constitucional," was written by his grandfather, Jacobo González Rubalcaba. Every American who listens to "El Cadete Constituticional" would immediately swear that the tune is one that John Philip Sousa "wrote," when in reality he borrowed the violin part from "El Cadete Constitucional" for the chorus of "The Stars And Stripes Forever." No wonder Rubalcaba is proud of the musical heritage of which his father was an integral part. No wonder he considers music to be a sacred calling. Berroa’s involvement in the tune changes its character entirely after Rubalcaba emotionally performs the melody as a danzón with gradual modulations and an exquisite touch. Once a whistle is blown, Berroa transforms the texture to one of a rumba,
allowing Rubalcaba to inject humor and minimal accenting in appreciation of the sweep of his grandfather’s vision.
"El Manicero" ("The Peanut Vendor"), likewise, recalls the first Cuban-American crossover hit, and again, Berroa, with the assistance of percussionists Luis and Robert Quintero and bassist Carlos Henriquez, makes explicit the tune’s personality, its infectious dynamism creating the depiction of street movement.
Rubalcaba’s composition, "The Hard One," certainly is exactly that, as the piano rumbles in metrical unpredictability, even as the pulse of its percussiveness holds together the feel of the work with instantaneous perceptibility. "Oren (Pray)" covers the Yoruban
spiritual influence in Cuban music as Rubalcaba plays a fairly simple song of entreaty and adoration, during which, once again, the natural percussion forms the basis for the emotions associated with the music.
More traditional than some of his past albums, and more acoustic than Antiguo, Supernova
continues to prove that Rubalcaba is dedicated to the authenticity, the tradition and the spirit of the Cuban music he studied.... and which is part of his being. Less flamboyant in his technique than Chucho Valdés and more attuned to jazz’s enrichment of his native country’s music than Hilario Durán, Gonzalo Rubalcaba honestly records the music that reflects his personality and his upbringing. Then he lets the rest of the listening public catch up with him, especially now that Supernova
has been nominated for a Grammy Award.