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The mother lode of Cuban music has enriched the world of American jazz with many great players, perhaps none more valued than Grammy Award-winning pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. He is equally eloquent with the dance-inspired rhythms of Latin jazz and the soulful ballads of the boleros, heard at Lafayette several years ago in Rubalcaba’s memorable “Nocturne” collaboration with bassist Charlie Haden.

Exemplifying the luscious blending of Latin soul with contemporary American jazz, Rubalcaba returns to the Williams Center for the Arts8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, with longtime associate and veteran drummer Ignacio Berroa and two exceptionally talented young musicians, electric bass player Jose Armando Gola and saxophonist Luis Felipe Lamoglia, who performs on soprano, alto, and tenor. They will perform music from their latest Blue Note album, Paseo, which reinterprets some of Rubalcaba’s self-penned works that originally debuted on earlier recordings.

Individual tickets cost $18 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 610-330-5009.

Tickets also are available through subscriptions to Lafayette’s Jazz Masters series, which continues with Arturo O’Farrill y Riza Negra Friday, Sept. 16, featuring as special guests vibraphonist Dave Samuels and trumpeter Tom Harrell and a rhythm section anchored by heralded drummer Dafnis Prieto. O’Farrill will be Lafayette’s Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence for 2005–06 in a special 20th anniversary tribute to this residency. As part of NEA Jazz Masters on Tour, the legendary Wayne Shorter and his quartet will perform Monday, Oct. 9. Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, also led by O’Farrill, concludes the series Thursday, April 6. Each concert begins at 8 p.m. A Jazz Masters subscription costs $69, a savings of $11 compared to the total cost of a ticket to each concert.

In a non-subscription event, trumpeter, composer, and arranger Brian Lynch will bring his group Spheres of Influence to the Williams Center 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 28. Tickets cost $18.

In 2002, Rubalcaba won both a Latin Grammy for Jazz Album of the Year, Supernova, and a Grammy for co-production with Haden of the Verve release Nocturne. He has had eight Grammy nominations, including four for Jazz Album of the Year — Rapsodia in 1995, Antiguoand Inner Voyage in 1999, and Supernova. He also received the SFJAZZ Leaders Circle Laureate Award and performed as Artist in Residence at Montreal Jazz Festival together with Chucho Valdez.

“More than almost any pianist since the passing of Bill Evans, [Rubalcaba] truly has the capacity to make this instrument sing,” states the Los Angeles Times.

Notes the Boston Herald in a concert review, “Rubalcaba took the capacity crowd on a tour of his world, a space in jazz unlike any other.”

Rubalcaba has entranced even the most jaded musicians and fans with his muscular, free-leaning, classically grounded technique, and intellectually refined his improvisational skills with a willingness to approach venerated Cuban traditions from a new perspective. From associations earlier in his career with esteemed jazz artists such as Ron Carter, Joe Lovano and Paul Motian to recent collaborations with Haden and Pat Martino, he has earned the respect of his most distinguished peers.

Rubalcaba began his classical musical training at Manuel Saumell Conservatory in Cuba at age nine, continued at Amadeo Roldan Conservatory, and earned a degree in music composition from Havana’s Institute of Fine Arts in l983. By that time he was already playing in clubs and music halls in Havana. With Orquesta Aragon he toured France and Africa in 1980. He introduced his own Grupo Projecto to the North Sea and Berlin Festivals in l985. In July 1990 he appeared as a surprise guest with Haden and Paul Motian at Montreux Festival, Switzerland, in a historic performance available as the CD Discovery.

Egrem Studios of Havana was the first to record Rubalcaba’s music during the early and mid ’80s, and these discs are still being released. In 1986 he began recording for Messidor of Frankfurt, Germany, and put out three superb albums for that label with his Cuban Quartet, Mi Gran Pasion, Live in Havana, and Giraldilla. That year, Rubalcaba also met in Havana with Haden, who introduced him to Blue Note Records’ president, Bruce Lundvall. That began an association, first with Toshiba/EMI of Japan, and later with Blue Note in the United States, which has resulted in the release of 11 albums.

In addition to Jazz Masters, the Performance Series includes Chamber Music, Footlights, and Sound Alternatives.

The nationally recognized Performance Series at Lafayette attracts more than 10,000 people each season. It has been cited for performing excellence by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, Chamber Music America, Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund, Pennsylvania Arts and Humanities Councils, and Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

The 2005–2006 Performance Series is supported in part by gifts from Friends of the Williams Center for the Arts; by provisions of the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence Program, the James Bradley Fund, and the Ed Brunswick Jazz Fund; and by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, the Dexter and Dorothy Baker Foundation, and New England Foundation for the Arts.

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