Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s Skyline is the first of three planned trio albums. It offers a mixture of Cuban standards and original pieces from bandmates and legends Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette. For Rubalcaba, this music was a return to the places he encountered more than 20 years ago when he first immigrated from Cuba. The tunes reimagined here recall what he asserts in the liner notes was his “real school, [his] portal to a different relationship with American music.” Yet, the music is a mature rendering of the art of piano trio. On the DeJohnette tune “Silver Hollow,” Rubalcaba tugs at the emotional registers with touch. Then there are the bright and moving lines of “Ahmad The Terrible,” a song DeJohnette wrote for Ahmad Jamal, a rendition befitting its namesake.
On both, the trio hews close enough to the originals to evoke nostalgia, but offers surprising new directions. Amid the straight-ahead interpretations of the Cuban standards, “Lagrimas Negras” and “Novia Mia,” the album closes with an unplanned improvisation, “RonJackRuba,” recorded unbeknownst to the group. There might be no more fitting end than the blues for three musicians that have already given us so much, yet still continue to give.