I wanted to see the Cuban pianist playing live since I heard his album Diz some twenty years ago. And now the chance presented itself. Tonight, Gonzalo Rubalcaba Quartet featuring bassist Matt Brewer, saxophonist Will Vinson and drummer Jeff Ballard presented a tribute to the great late Charlie Haden, Rubalcaba’s long-time friend and collaborator.
Inside the modern cuboid of a building, we found a rather traditional wedding-cake type of theatre, complete with stalls, balconies and boxes as well as classically-inspired frescoes by Néstor. We were sitting in “the gods”, as those were the cheapest seats on offer (and €20 is quite expensive by Canarian standards). In spite of relatively recent refurbishment, there was not enough legroom. This could have made the experience uncomfortably similar to a Ryanair flight. However, the theatre was far from being packed, which was a shame really. Whether it was competition with Hallowe’en parties (I did not realise until now just how popular Hallowe’en became in Spain) or typically Canarian poor publicity, I can’t tell you.
As I was perching on my seat, I couldn’t help thinking how incongruous was the music with this environment. Jazz is egalitarian and playful. Jazz ignores, bends and breaks the boundaries. It is a complete antithesis to the rigidly stratified microcosm of the opera house. The music tonight was thoughtful, at times sombre, with great chunks of silence. Far cry from bebop nuevo of Diz era but as (or even more) engaging. It should have been played in a more chamber settings, if only for the sake of interaction with the audience. Besides, the smaller sold-out venue is always better than a bigger and half-empty one.
After the show, Timur confessed that this is not his favourite sub-genre of jazz, as he put it. He prefers big bands. Fair enough. I think know where we’re going to watch next time.