Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SOLO FEVER

The popular thing among some jazz piano players nowadays is making a solo album. Geri Allen made one last year. A reissued solo album by the late Jaki Byard and one by Sir Roland Hanna are available. More solo albums are surely coming. Too often, the solo albums sound as though the piano players used the same game plan, rely heavily on introspection. Granted some of the solo albums are likable enough, but most come off like self-indulgent practice sessions.

Sorry to say, Cuban born jazz piano player, Gonzalo Rubalcaba's new solo album Faith, sounds self-indulgent or as if Rubalcaba is killing time practicing his favorite tunes. That’s disappointing, given Rubalcaba reputation as a piano wizard. Faith comes out the first day of June on Rubalcaba's new label 5Passion.

Of the fifteen songs on Faith, Rubalcaba’s wrote ten. Derivado 2 and Oro are likable tunes, offering only a glimpse of Rubalcaba's skills. On many of his other albums, Rubalcaba was exciting and imaginative, but on Faith his playing is flat. Did he intend for Faith to be uncharacteristic? Only he can answer that.

But, absent from Faith is the sharpness and the excitement Rubalcaba has displayed before as a sideman and as a leader. If that assertion warrants proof, listen to Rubalcaba’s handiwork on the album The Monterey Quartet: Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival.

Rubalcaba livens up some on Derivado 2, Oro, and Improvisation 1. The latter original is a nod to John Coltrane. The chord changes are like those on Coltrane’s Giant Steps, widely spaced. Unfortunately, you have to weed through some banal tunes before experiencing Improvisation 1. Faith doesn't come close to capturing the inner workings of Rubalcaba’s playing.
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