Supernova (Blue Note)

Gonzalo Rubalcaba Trio

Released July 2001

Grammy Nominee for Best Latin Jazz Album 2002




Gonzalo Rubalcaba: he is a luminary among musicians. A pianist-composer, ensemble leader-recording artist, blazing an unparalleled arc in the 21st-century firmament, Rubalcaba makes music of substance that’s enlightening, enriching and enlivening in this moment. Supernova is a point of shining excellence in his path to an as-yet-unlimited apex. It’s also his most revealing recording to date of his Cuban musical heritage; its African, European and the Caribbean sources, and the music’s unfolding potential in the ever-changing New World. Pursuing precedents set by his 20th-century countrymen Alejandro Garcia Caturla and Amadeo Roldan, Rubalcaba asserts through both his compositions and far-ranging improvisations that all his island nation’s unique indigenous styles, from the elegant Danzon to the balladic bolero to the earthy son, share tangled roots, which, when interwoven, have unusual flexibility andstrength. Applying ultra-modern jazz sensibilities and a virtuosic vocabulary to the classical and vernacular genres he mastered as a childprodigy in Havana, Rubalcaba is on a mission to fix Afro-Cuban-American music where it belongs, among the most prominent constellations in the sky. Fueled by such aspirations, his performances gleam with diamond-like facets, variously bright, warm, cool, smoldering and hot. Each of his pieces sparkle with nuance—as if an arch of the eyebrow, shrug of the shoulder or shift of the hipsaccompanied flashing fingers, which might spin most anything into spontaneous, lyrical song. Gorgeous melodies, far-flung harmonies and rampant polyrhythms connote the life Rubalcaba has observed over more than 15 years of traversing the globe, making music on command for discerning audiences in first-rank clubs, festivals and concert halls. His reflections are romantic, wry, poetic and refined, but can often be dark. He plays with an experttouch beautiful ideas and finely-focused energy.

Track Listing:

1. Supernova 1 6:26

2. El Cadete Constitucional (The Constitutional Cadet) 7:12

3. Alma Mia (Soul of Mine) (María Mendez Grever) 6:02

4. La Voz del Centro (The Voice in Between) 6:43

5. El Manicero (The Peanut Vendor) (Moisés Simóns) 8:30

6. Supernova 2 6:11

7. Otra Mirada (Another View) 5:43

8. The Hard One 7:05

9. Oren (Pray) 4:44

(Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition 2002)


Gonzalo Rubalcaba: piano and keyboards; percussion (9)

Carlos Henriquez: bass

Ignacio Berroa: drums and rainmaker

Special Guests

Luis Quintero: timbales and guiro (2, 5)

Roberto Quintero: congas (2, 5)

Jim Anderson: rainmaker (9)

Recorded on December 2-5, 2000
Mixed on January 7-9, 2001

Producer: Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Executive-Producer: Juan Carlos Quesada

Editing, Mastering: Allan Tucker

Recording, Mix: Jim Anderson


Cuban Pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba burst onto the American jazz scene in the early 1990s with his over-caffeinated piano gymnastics. To be fair to the young performer, he had musical talent beyond his years, and with the State Departments restrictions on his appearances in the US he would squeeze an entire tour into one night’s concert. Since being allowed to move to the U.S. his music has relaxed, allowing him to develop at a somewhat sane pace.

He recorded Flying Colors, a session of duets with saxophonist Joe Lovano in 1997, a synthesizer and keyboards album Antiqua ala Chick Corea, and most recently Nocturne (Verve), a romantic slow-dance session of Cuban and Mexican tunes with Charlie Haden. Rubalcaba has branched out from his pyrotechnic-laden beginning as if in defiance of his critics to prove that he has soul.Supernova proves the pianist has plenty of heart rooted in a traditional Cuban music past and a head pointed into a diverse North American future. This recording starts at the Buena Vista Social Club, performing music of his paternal grandfather Jacobo Rubalcaba. “El Cadete Constituitional” (or The Constituitional Cadet) opens as a throwback to early Cuban jazz, only to march to an ending with a very modern synthesizer solo. Rubalcaba’s roots run deep, and he displays them with much pride here. He applies the Mexican standard “Alma Mia” with an honest melancholy lyricism, and takes back the promise of bebop on “LaVoz Del Centro.” He hasn’t lost his desire for furious runs as he ignites on the aptly titled “The Hard One,” with bit of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” sampled for flavor. The title track parts one and two, performed by a very tight trio, sum up his musical stance this new millenium. He utilizes styles from his native land to Africa and Europe in a jazz tradition of varying rhythms and time into a wow-factored trio interplay. The record closes with the environmental piece “Oren” (or Pray) a drums heavy piano/synthesizer piece with a nod to the future.

Mark Corroto (AllAboutJazz)