Present a Magical Night of World Jazz in Tarrytown
A Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

Guitar great Al Di Meola and Grammy Award-winning pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba created magical music that was of this world and beyond.

Al Di Meola & Gonzalo Rubalcaba Present a Magical Night of World Jazz in Tarrytown
Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Al Di Meola together in Tarrytown.

Al and Gonzalo have joined forces for a tour in the spring of 2013 with a stop at the Tarrytown Music Hall on April 5, 2013. Both Al and Gonzalo are acclaimed players well-loved and respected for their diverse and dynamic styles on their respective instruments. Thus, was thrilled to see the pair present an evening of world jazz in one of our favorite local venues.

In the early 70's, Di Meola was attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston where he was playing in a fusion quartet. Somehow a gig tape landed in the hands of Chick Corea who invited the 19-year old guitarist to join Return To Forever, which launched Al's expansive and experimental career. Since then Di Meola has worked with an impressive list of musicians and has recorded with the likes of opera superstar Luciano Pavarotti, pop stars Paul Simon and Dave Matthews, classical guitarist Manuel Barrueco and Japanese jazz pianist Yutaka Kobayashi.

Al has also had a successful solo career starting with the release of the Latin flavored Land of the Midnight Sun (1976). In more recent years, Di Meola has played with the New World Sinfonia (NWS). He describes NWS as rich harmonic kind of music with lots of improvisation and emotion. Through the years, Di Meola has explored a wide range of genres on his records and both his acoustic and electric guitar stylings have influenced many.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba was born in post-revolutionary Havana into a musical family. As a child he absorbed his Cuban musical heritage and listened to jazz musicians from the US including Thelonous Monk, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Rubalcaba was also classically trained at the Manuel Saumell Conservatory and he earned a degree in music composition from Havana's Institute of Fine Arts in 1983.

Over time his music reached beyond his native country and Gonzalo was discovered by Blue Note Records. Today he continues to tour the world as a solo pianist in jazz and classical settings. Rubalcaba is also a band leader and is known for live shows that meld Afro-Cuban, bop, jazz and world. Like Al Di Meola, Gonzalo continues to evolve as an artist, always in search of new inspirations and sounds.

On the Tarrytown stage was a Steinway grand piano for Gonzalo and an acoustic guitar with a Roland foot pedal set-up and mixing board for Al. As they came out, they shook hands with Al stating it was a dream come true to be performing with Rubalcaba. They opened with "Siberiana" a complex piece with an array of changes and stylings. At times the acoustic guitar sounded like an electric and the ivories were inventive.

The evening was a showcase of elaborate compositions with both musicians using sheet music for concise interpretations rather than improvisation. In that vein, the duo played the dynamic "Mawazine" with racing runs meandering through melodic movements. "Brave New World" progressed at different paces with each man using different techniques to craft sounds. They effectively used spacing - dramatic pauses between chords for additional effect - and this approach was utilized throughout the night.

"Double Concerto" was a tantalizing tango of guitar and piano as the two danced through a range of textures and tempos. After this song they each played solos. Gonzalo performed a number of pieces that he had written that were beautiful blends of accents and leads. Rubalcaba touch ranged from delicate to dynamic and with just a subtle turn of the wrist elicited more notes from his grand.

"Amazing," said Al as he returned for his spotlight. He mentioned that he had heard about Gonzalo about 20 years ago and "he blew me away". He stated that they have been working on lots of projects. Di Meola recently recorded an album at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in England which was the perfect place to do a Beatles cover record. He performed "Blackbird" from the forthcoming record. Al's version of the classic was brilliant. He added more layers and rhythms to the tune taking it to new heights and followed it with a masterful display of fluid fret work.

Rubalcaba returned and they played the colorful "Turquoise". It ran the gamut from pretty to potent and was followed by "Umbras" showcasing intricate interchanges with cascading chord progressions. The encore included their spin on the Beatles "She's Leaving Home" adding more notes and nuances to the piece. They finished with a stellar "Mediterranean Sundance".

Al Di Meola and Gonzalo Rubalcaba created a magical meld of jazz and world music at the Tarrytown Music Hall. It was a pleasure to see these two first class musicians come together and bring passion and precision to their craft.

Al Di Meola & Gonzalo Rubalcaba Present a Magical Night of World Jazz in Tarrytown
Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Al Di Meola: two world-class world musicians.

Related Links: For more information on AL DI MEOLA & GONZALO RUBALCABA and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Al Di Meola | Gonzalo Rubalcaba | Tarrytown Music Hall

(Originally Published on April 07, 2013)




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