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JAZZ REVIEW

Rubalcaba and Sanchez are a stirring alliance

January 23, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Worried about the state of jazz? Worry no more. Take a trip to Catalina Bar & Grill this week and your concerns will quickly slip away in the wake of the brilliant partnership of pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba and tenor saxophonist David Sanchez.

The Caribbean-born players -- Rubalcaba from Cuba and Sanchez from Puerto Rico -- make a stunningly compatible combination, their playing enhanced by the magical craftsmanship of drummer Ignacio Berroa and the sturdy bass work of Armando Gola. Blessed with virtuosic technical skills, both Rubalcaba and Sanchez have sometimes tended to emphasize speed over substance, multi-note profusion over the spare use of musical space. But their current efforts -- via their individual careers as well as the togetherness displayed at Catalina -- reveal growing musical maturity in the effective balancing of all their skills.

Rubalcaba, who can never be accused of verbosity, failed to offer the titles of any of the compositions played, but all traced to his most recent, Latin Grammy Award-winning album, "Supernova." Many of the works made stirring use of 6/8 and 6/4 rhythms, their impact further enhanced by the arching, across-the-bar-line complexity of Rubalcaba's melodies.

Most of the music has also turned up in previous Rubalcaba performances, but the presence of Sanchez -- via his soloing as well as his precise interaction with Rubalcaba -- brought transformative new perspectives to each of the pieces. With plenty of room allowed for soloing, matching Sanchez's warm but robust tenor with the penetrating fluidity of Rubalcaba's piano, Tuesday's opening set offered a stirring affirmation of the bright, global future of America's improvisational art.

*

Gonzalo Rubalcaba Trio With David Sanchez

Where: Catalina Bar & Grill, 1640 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.

When: Tonight through Saturday, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Sunday, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.

Price: $20 to $30, two-drink minimum

Info: (323) 466-2210

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