What happens when a group of visionary musicians get together for the live performance of something very sophisticated, lead by one of jazz's heaviest hitters? The answer, of course, if magic. Now, what happens if all those things are true, but it is simply before the musician's time? Uncontrolled magic. When rhythm section players like Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Felipe Cabrera, Roberto Vizcaíno, and Horacio "El Negro" Hernández take the stage, there is Cuban alchemy so strong that concepts like tumbao and clave become obsolete, irrelevant. The horn players, Lazaro Cruz and Rafael Carrasco, together form an amazing voice, and individually push the style to new levels. The complexity of Rubalcaba's arrangements are unparalleled in modern Latin jazz. His soloing concepts are so visceral and unchecked that they are indigestible upon first listening. Though often times quite tuneful, 1989's Live in Havana bears all the markings of a "young lion's" project. The classic questions like "who is was this album made for, Gonzalo or the audience?" and "where's the mix of old and new?" are appropriate, and will leap to mind more than once. The overall effect is sort of like witnessing a young Bill Shakespeare get tipsy and let his hair down at a cocktail party. Most prefer Macbeth. The project is inspirational, and has great merit, but will require a very special kind of listener to get frequent play.
AllMusic Review by Evan C. Gutierrez