Imagine: Live in America

by: Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Gonzalo Rubalcaba, a Cuban jazz treasure, is heard on his CD from three separate occasions. Although Howard Mandel's odd liner notes make it sound like most of the music originated from Rubalcaba's 1993 New York concert at Alice Tully Hall (he even refers to a duet Rubalcaba had with singer Dianne Reeves as if it were included on this release), only the searching version of "First Song" with bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Jack DeJohnette is actually from that appearance. "Imagine" and "Circuito II." (both taken solo) were recorded in a Hollywood studio a year later and the remaining four songs (three with a Cuban quartet) are taken from a 1994 Westwood concert. Rubalcaba has limitless technique and (even with its touches of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea) a sound of his own. His lyrical rendition of "Imagine" is a highlight as is the eccentric "Contagio" and a melancholy exploration of "Perfidia." Of Rubalcaba's sidemen, electric bassist Felipe Cabrera's very active accompaniment recalls Jaco Pastorius, drummer Julio Barreto is fine in support and trumpeter Reynaldo Melian is a virtuoso with a rather cold sound. All in all, this is a fine all-round set by Gonzalo Rubalcaba that is full of complex ideas and subtle surprises.~ Scott Yanow

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