Gonzalo Rubalcaba releases juicy jazz album | VailDaily.com

Gonzalo Rubalcaba releases juicy jazz album

Daily Staff ReportVail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

Avatar Blue Note RecordsIts very obvious that pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba understands the rich well of improvisation that can be tapped when playing jazz, and he should. Rubalcaba has a long and distinguished career as a jazz musician and Avatar, his latest release, is another notch in that career.Rubalcaba brought together four musicians who he deeply respected but hadnt yet had the chance to work with. The resulting sessions gave birth to wickedly improvisational recordings, all produced and arranged by Rubalcaba. Avatar can get a little too muddled by the excessive improv, but overall the album flows quickly and loosely through the seven tracks three of which were written by saxophonist Yosvany Terry.One of the best qualities of this album, however, is the combination of influences brought together by the five musicians. Recorded in New Yorks Avatar Studios (hence the album title), there is a street-corner appeal through much of the work with degrees of Rubalcabas own Cuban heritage peeking through at times, most notably on Hip Side.Avatar goes down smooth with a few rough patches of crammed in virtuosity, but overall its a refreshing jazz album.For: Fans of high-improv jazz and city romantics. Charlie Owen, High Life writer

Roots & Groove Heads UpMaceo Parker is not the best sideman in music. But he is the most important one.In his 40-plus years on the stage first backing James Brown and George Clinton, then breaking down and breaking out their most famous tunes for himself Parker has never been the most technically adept alto saxophonist, and his own band members have the tendency to show him up with the virtuosity of their solos.Parker is the leader because he understands funk. He helped invent it. And it comes out with every repeated riff and squealed note, everything that sounds more like a sexed-up breathless rant than a carefully planned improvisation.On the double-CD Roots & Grooves, Parker teams up with Germanys WDR Big Band, paying tribute to Ray Charles on the first disc and to his own funky invention on the second (including an 18-minute rendition of Pass the Peas, a song Parker didnt write but has single-handedly made a standard for high school jazz combos everywhere).Theres not one new song on Roots & Grooves. These are the same tunes that Parker has been recording since 1992s Life on Planet Groove a live album that, especially on tracks such as Georgia On My Mind, has too much raw emotion to be outdone by the big band swagger of Roots & Grooves.But theres still enough power in Parkers grunts, groans and squeaking saxophones that even recycled tunes (especially standout tracks Hallelujah I Love Her So and Shake Everything Youve Got) are a welcome contribution of distilled soul, from one of the few active performers who really understands it. Margaret Hair, Steamboat Pilot & Today

Lucky BarsukNada Surfs fifth studio effort, Lucky, is not bad. Its just boring.A band that has been crafting melancholy soft pop for most of this decade, Nada Surf continues to shape its tunes on pretty (but dreary) melodies and mildly hopeful lyrics.Opening track See These Bones is aptly self-aware (and aptly dragged into a hard-to-pin-down sadness by Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard), and acts as a marker for how the rest of the album will move.Lucky, like See These Bones, is pleasant, but its also ignorable. Margaret Hair, Steamboat Pilot & Today

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