Gonzalo Rubalcaba teams up with Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette on Skyline

Gonzalo Rubalcaba has enlisted the masterful talents of Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette for his latest album Skyline.

It’s the Grammy-winning pianist’s 34th album as a leader and the first in a planned trilogy of piano trio records for 5Passion, the record label that Rubalcaba co-founded in 2010 (after releasing 13 of his albums with Blue Note over a 15-year stretch).

Raised in Cuba before emigrating first to the Dominican Republic in 1991 and then to Miami in 1996, Rubalcaba says his early gigs with Carter and DeJohnette were his “real school.”

When he started this new trio project, Rubalcaba says he knew he needed sidemen who could pull off the sound — one based heavily on Afro-Cuban rhythms and musical conversation — with a great amount of both knowledge and feel. That made bassist Carter and drummer DeJohnette his first picks.

“No matter what music you put in their hands, at the end they convert that music into something personal,” Rubalcaba tells journalist Ted Panken in the liner notes. “That to me has an amazing value. But at the same time they understand their function at every moment…. Ron and Jack know how to keep their sound, their spirit, while fulfilling at a very high level your request as a producer or musical director or composer. They combine a special talent and a strong personality with a high level of consciousness of responsibility — everything together.”

On Skyline, each of the three musicians offers up a pair of his own previously recorded tunes. That includes Carter’s Gypsy and A Quiet Place, DeJohnette’s Silver Hollow and Ahmad the Terrible, and Rubalcaba’s Promenade and Siempre Maria. The nine-track recording also features two Cuban standards — Lágrimas Negras and Novia Mia — as well as a final track titled RonJackRuba, a spontaneous collective improvisation that the trio didn’t even know was being recorded at the time.

Rubalcaba’s early-’90s albums Discovery: Live at Montreux and The Blessing — both with Blue Note — were instant classics, breaking him into the American jazz market by showcasing his virtuosic technique and dense improvisations. He has since been nominated for six Grammy Awards as a composer and performer and has won two Grammys for best Latin jazz album as the producer of Charlie Haden’s albums Nocturne (2001) and Land of the Sun (2004).

Panken writes in the liner notes that Skyline is “an immersive album that is unique in Rubalcaba’s discography for its unendingly dialogical quality, in which no topic, idea or motif is off-limits to kinetic, soulful investigation.”

Skyline arrives Sept. 17 via 5Passion.

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