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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Live at the Münchner Klaviersommer 1994



1. Hot House
2. Autumn Leaves
3. Donna Lee
4. I Remember Clifford
5. Ah-Leu-Cha
6. Smooch
7. Bouncing with Bud
8. Woody’n You
9. A Night in Tunisia
10. When Will the Blues Leave
Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Piano
Ron Carter – Bass
Julio Barreto – Drums

With a pianist and drummer who both come from Cuba, you might expect a disc dominated by Cuban rhythms. However, as you can see from the playlist, the repertoire is predominantly bebop, although this trio plays with the abandon that is often characteristic of Cuban music. In fact the repertoire reflects that of the Blue Note album Diz, which this same trio recorded the year before this concert. The fact that the concert was recorded in 1994 may account for the DVD being in black-and-white.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba is a phenomenal pianist, as I discovered when I saw him in concert in the 1990s. He has such brilliant technique that his playing continually surprises, although he certainly doesn’t show off all the time. In fact he introduces many of the tracks in a meditative style reminiscent of Erroll Garner’s habit of mysterious introductions which could seemingly lead anywhere. This happens at the start of Autumn Leaves, for instance, and leads into an adventurous exploration of the familiar theme which takes us on a voyage of discovery around the chord sequence.

Donna Lee, again, begins enigmatically and the melody never quite emerges fully from the enterprising improvisation, which uses Gonzalo’s impressive technique to the full. I Remember Clifford is taken extremely slowly, so as to become a thoughtful elegy. In all these numbers, Ron Carter follows Rubalcaba sympathetically but never slavishly, adding his own surprises to each tune and matching the pianist in daring. And his resonant tone provides a reassuring base to all the music, however many byways it explores.

Rubalcaba’s fingers are so mobile in Bouncing With Bud that you expect them to fly off his hands at any moment. Latin-American rhythms finally come to the fore in a breakneck interpretation of Woody’n You, which merges into a mix of a Cuban beat and straight four-four. Julio Barreto (Rubalcaba’s regular drummer for much of the 1990s) ends this track with a long but measured drum solo.

A Night in Tunisia is introduced by Ron Carter with an extended bass solo which subtly hints at the tune while cleverly dislocating it, a process which continues when the piano and drums enter – underlining the way that the tune naturally shifts from one pulse to another. The concert ends with some more startling pianistics in When Will the Blues Leave which, although hardly a conventional blues performance, suggests that the spirit of the blues endures in groups like this – as well as the spirit of adventure. Marvellous!

Tony Augarde

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