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The Blessing

Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s second album, The Blessing, is an improvement over his first, but the Cuban pianist remains a prisoner of his ostentatious digital skill. He has two hobbyhorses: a technical proficiency that is often more showy than substantial (the strangely insulting liner notes say he ”simply froths”), and extreme dynamics — his pianissimos are barely audible. As a result, Rubalcaba never fully connects with his masterful accompanists, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Jack DeJohnette. Yet when he’s in the grip of a good melody, such as Ornette Coleman’s ”The Blessing” or Jimmy Dorsey’s 1944 hit ”Besame Mucho,” Rubalcaba’s virtuoso extremes become their own reward. B-

The Blessing
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