Tokyo Adagio: Charlie Haden & Gonzalo Rubalcaba

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Charlie Haden & Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Charlie Haden and Gonzalo Rubalcaba (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

This is music that comes straight from the heart. Two outstanding musicians who genuinely loved and respected one another, performing before a quiet, rapt audience in the intimate setting of the Blue Note Tokyo club. It is music to savor like a fine meal accompanied by a fine wine.

Some duet albums I find to be thin, lacking the presence of a solid drummer to enliven things. But not so withTokyo Adagio, released on the venerable Impulse label. Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Charlie Haden share a special musical telepathy steeped in decades of friendship and mutual admiration. It was the late American bassist, Charlie Haden (b. 1937–2014), who brought a young Gonzalo Rubalcaba to the world’s attention. Rubalcaba, like fellow Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes, was inspired by his pianist father, Guillermo Rubalcaba. (Chucho’s dad was the late great Bebo Valdes).

Charlie discovered Rubalcaba on a mid-’80s trip to Cuba, and brought his music to the attention of Blue Note’s then president, the late Bruce Lundvall, who recognized the young pianist’s genius and released his first records outside of Cuba.

You really don’t need to know all this, however, just listen to the music. Taken from a series live shows recorded back in 2005, the duo perform Latin classics and American songbook material such as the Mercer/Raksin ballad, “My Love and I.” There’s even an Ornette Coleman song, as well as original works by Haden and Rubalcaba.

Pianists have always loved Haden for his deep bass sound (he played with gut strings, not metal ones), his razor ears, nuance, and his depth of feeling. Tokyo Adagio is a beautiful live concert album that feels to me like a posthumous tribute to the late bassist and Bruce Lundvall. It will move you from beginning to end.

An original cut by Charlie Haden from Tokyo Adagio called “Sandino.”

Impulse Records’ promo video for Tokyo Adagio.

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