An envious Herbie Hancock once joked that he wanted to break his more skilled rival Gonzalo Rubalcaba's fingers, or at the very least, encase them in cement. But while Hancock's brand of jazz has reaped millions by being accessible to a wide audience (there's something to say for having melodies you can actually hum), Rubalcaba plays a form of jazz so intense, complex and challenging that even a master technician such as himself calls one of his tunes "The Hard One." Try humming this stuff at your own risk.
Born to a family of musicians in Cuba, Rubalcaba studied at Havana's famed Amadeo Roldan Conservatory but now calls Florida home. His music runs from introspective ballads and boleros to outrageously technical forays of hyperlicks played over smokin' güaracha, rumba and son montuño grooves that will make your head spin. It's the kind of music that makes your run-of-the-mill, everyday jazz pianist look up and ask, "What the hell is he doing?"
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Expect most of the in-the-know drummers in town to be at these shows, too, to check out Ignacio Berroa -- a drummer' s drummer, one of the monsters of the instrument. Also accompanying Rubalcaba will be Armando Gola on bass.