Rubén González

Indestructible

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Well into his eighties before finally being discovered by the American public (via the sponsorship of Ry Cooder), Rubén González was hailed as the undisputed king of Afro-Cuban jazz piano. His clean, romantic, traditional style is enhanced by elements of modernist pianists such as Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly, and McCoy Tyner. But remaining true to the conventional song styles of his homeland, González played many a memorable melody line in solo, group, or conjunto concepts. Indestructible is a series of small-group efforts with the sparest rhythm section backed by only upright bass and hand percussion. This allows his natural and organic sound to be fully heard and realized in a varied program of works from several different authors. There are three originals from González: "Climax" with its lighter, less excited song (cancion) style; the descarga jam "Fabiando," which is much hotter and interactive with percussionists Guillermo García, Roberto García, and Gustavo Tamayo; and the bolero "Como Siento Ya," which sounds like a new version of "Cry Me a River." "Nuestra Canción" is a sweet, slow, and sensual tune similar to "My Romance." Of the five boleros total, "Mil Congojas" is short and bouncy, while "La Gloria Eres Tú" has an atypically fast intro and a normalized slow body. The most energetic and brightest track is the mambo chá "Date una Vueltecita," while the guararengue "Yo Te Enseño Lola" has a pronounced clave beat on bass from Fabián García, with impressive expressionism from the group in the mezzo-forte range. At its peak, the band hits the quick ritmo "Prestame la Bicicleta" running, with González playing wonderful two-handed dancing chords. On three tracks there is an unidentified organist, not credited to González but possibly overdubbed, which ups the cheese factor. Though the sound is downplayed in the mix during "Climax," some may find it annoying. Overall, this fine effort is one to seek and keep alongside his breakthrough CD, Introducing...Rubén González. It is a strong testament to the vitality and vision of a pianist -- among a great lineage -- who the world should have known much earlier in his storied career.

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