Two generations of Afro-Cuban jazz greats join forces for the project known as Trance. Pianists Chucho Valdés, 76, and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, 54, longtime friends and musical colleagues, have known each other for ages. “This is a duo comprised of two pianists who have a historic relationship within the Cuban piano tradition,” said Valdés, who appears with Rubalcaba for an SCP Jazz concert Feb. 23. “That has made this project something very special.”
Trance “speaks of a profound connection to the spiritual forces that flow through the many tongues in music,” according to the duo’s representatives. “It would have been easy to pick some standards and just go out and play, but we wanted to do something special,” Rubalcaba said. “We’re both writing music for two pianos and re-imagining music ranging from the popular and classical Cuban repertoire to [Thelonious] Monk.”
Both Valdés and Rubalcaba came out of the fusion movements of the ’70s and ’80s: Valdés as the founder, leader, composer and arranger of Irakere, the pioneering Afro-Cuban jazz rock band, and Rubalcaba with Grupo Proyecto, his explosive Afro-Cuban jazz fusion ensemble. Since then, both have focused more on smaller, more intimate showcases.
They also share common bonds of birthplace and musical heritage. Valdés is the son of the great pianist Bebo Valdes (1918-2013), while Rubalcaba comes from an artistic family as well. Perhaps that’s why Trance developed as a logical progression.
“I know Gonzalo’s father and I know Gonzalo since he was a child,” Valdés said. “This duo emerged very naturally, organically. The two pianos already sound like one.”
In this short video, posted on YouTube, Valdés and Rubalcaba rehearse for their upcoming tour: