Solo by Gonzalo Rubalcaba
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"I felt the necessity to create an album of secrets, letters and notes, and photos. Something like an aural diary," writes Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba in the liner notes of Solo, his first proper solo effort in two decades. Indeed, much of the disc plays like a hushed homage to moods, thoughts, feelings, and ideas, anchored by Rubalcaba richly emotive piano work. The pianist earned much of his acclaim via collaborations with groups and has worked with bassists Charlie Haden, Ron Carter and saxophonist Joe Lovano. Solo, however, finds Rubalcaba soaring on the strength of his own talent. Kick-off interlude "Rezo (Praise Be)" is based on Afro-Cuban melodies sung during Santeria rites, and "Silencio" is a moving bolero tribute. Rubalcaba has include material here that he has previously recorded--including the standard "Besame Mucho"--but he reworks it, giving the songs a fresh urgency. Solo also includes four improvisations ("Paseo Iluminado," "Paseo en Media Luz," "Paseo Azul" and "Paseo Morado") that mark the passing of a single day via environmental light. That free-form quartet was inspired by John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," but Rubalcaba manages to make them, and the rest of Solo, a wholly unique experience. --Joey Guerra