Album: Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Avatar (Blue Note)

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The Independent Culture

Sixteen years after he emerged as a new star on the international festival circuit, Cuban pianist Rubalcaba still seems impossible to categorise.

Is he a classical-influenced composer of pellucid improvisations or a hard-swinging post-bopper? This quintet set recorded in NYC suggests the latter, with only one of the seven tunes credited to the leader.

But the band is the thing. Drummer Marcus Gilmore is perhaps the real star, setting up furious polyrhythms for the horn-team of Yosvany Terry on saxes and Mike Rodriguez on trumpet to get busy with, while Rubalcaba remains masterful, if a little distant. Let's hope they tour.