There is not too much music that can stir the soul like Afro-Cuban music – especially the languid magic of the bolero and son, and other dance forms – and there are very few musicians performing today who would stir the depths of the soul as Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Aymée Nuviola. [Although one mustn’t forget that Omara Portuondo is still with us]. These absolutely magical duets on Live in Marciac which these great artists have here provided us with [on the disc] are inimitable benchmarks in a manner that would be hard to reach or even humbly attempt to replicate.
Friends and classmates from childhood, Miss Nuviola and Mr Rubalcaba share a unique bond and it is evident in the powerful undertow – the nuanced melodic, harmonic and rhythmic waves that ebb and flow on the musical interpretations they create on this album. These are all classic Latin American standards, but you might as well be discovering them afresh as you listen to them as deeply as Pauline Oliveros would like you to. There are new and more dramatic twists and turns in the narratives of this music – on “Bésame Mucho, “Lágrimas Negras” and “El Manisero”, for instance, swirling spirals of sound that appear to come out of nowhere but thin air.
And where the music is newer – as in Miss Nuviola’s own “Nada para ti” – there may not be the same dallying theatrical effect as in the other charts, but there is, with all the beauty of Miss Nuviola’s caresses of the lyric and Mr Rubalcaba’s shadowing of her vocalastics, an intriguing edginess, or just a subtle hint of it in some of the nooks and crannies of the song. Both Miss Nuviola and Mr Rubalcaba treat these songs as [essentially] a series of beautifully and sharply delineated sound paintings.
But the contrast between the pianist’s and the vocalist’s sculpted inventions could not be more different from each other – and therefore, full of surprise. Mr Rubalcaba starts off the songs in a sedate, almost stately manner [and you wonder – rightly so – when he is going to cut loose]. This he does in his own inimitable style, when he has the spotlight: his fingerwork is dazzling – vaunted arpeggios interspersed by noble harmonic changes and punctuated by mystical labyrinths invented on the fly, leading you on into a shadowy world full of mysterious hopes and depths.
Mr Rubalcaba knows when to turn the spot onto Miss Nuviola and then we are treated to some of the most eloquent vocalastics. Miss Nuviola rises to the occasion, matching the inventions and inversions by the pianist by manipulating her magnificent contralto. She is the equivalent of a belcanto singer, aceing eighth notes and sixteenth notes with stunning legato, without missing a beat.
If she were singing an aria, then what she does with the gliding changes in melodic invention and articulation – from throat voice to diaphragmatic breathing, smoky seduction to lofty, whirling and twirling of the lyric; a diva nourishing the lyric of the song and, indeed the very air around you, with finely modulated melisma and coloratura. “Mi Mejor Canción” and “Dos Gardenias” are certified – and instant – classics of a romantic kind.
The pairing of Mr Rubalcaba and Miss Nuviola – after the two live recordings they have captured on record – is a match made in heaven. It’s exciting to wonder what might be next, if they can be in the same place at the same time: a slew of recordings, perhaps? One dares to dream.
YouTube Playlist – Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Aymée Nuviola: Live in Marciac
Tracks – 1: Bésame Mucho; 2: Lágrimas Negras; 3: Mi Mejor Canción; 4: Bemba Colorá; 5: Dos Gardenias; 6: El Ratón; 7: Nada es para ti; 8: El Manisero; 9: El Ciego
Musicians – Gonzalo Rubalcaba: piano; Aymée Nuviola: vocals
Released – 2022
Label – 5Passion Records
Runtime – 1:01:47
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