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Paseo (2004)

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Ignacio Berroa

Cuban pianist and composer Gonzalo Rubalcaba makes an autobiographical journey on Paseo, a Spanish word that translates as "passage," "walk," and even "stroll." With a new generation of his New Cuban Quintet that features drummer Ignacio Berroa, soprano Luis Felipe Lamoglia, and electric bassist Jose Armando Gola, Rubalcaba revisits the music of his historical and recorded past and comes out of the gate with swinging new conceptions of them in order to lay the foundation for new directions. His use of Cuban composer Hilario Gonzáles' "Preludia en Conga No. 1" as a tribute is compelling. Here, utilizing electric keyboards, funky backdrops, and fascinating contrapuntal interaction between himself, Gola, and Lamoglia, he comes up with a commanding new case for "fusion." Likewise, in revising his own "Bottoms Up" and "Sea Change," he offers startling rhythmic invention and tough, dense melodic solos that use post-bop language for knotty dialogues between his acoustic and electric keyboards, with Gola's bass as the catalyst for movement. The shimmering ostinato funkiness of the title track is another exercise in spiky melodic counterpoint between piano and bass, and the use of folk forms on "El Guerrillero" restates the Cuban son as a shape-shifting exercise in complex front-line lyricism. Paseo is a provocative recording, one that fans of Rubalcaba's more fiery straight-up jazz sessions may have some trouble with. But for those willing enough to take it on its own terms, it is yet another step forward into truly new territories of form, improvisation, color, and song as applied to the jazz idiom. Paseo is very fine indeed. ~ Thom Jurek