May 27, 1963… Gonzalo Julio Gonzalez Fonseca was born in post-revolutionary Havana into a musical family rich in the traditions of the country’s artistic past. During his childhood, in addition to the standard fare of elementary schools, Gonzalo absorbed the Cuban musical heritage of his nascent environment through personal contacts within his family, notably his father, pianist Guillermo Rubalcaba and his two brothers (pianist and bassist) as well as from leading musicians who were frequent houseguests: Frank Emilio, Peruchin, Felipe Dulzaides and others. He also assimilated, through scarce and treasured recordings, the tunes and styles of 40′s – 70′s US jazz masters: Thelonius Monk,Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson among pianists; and instrumentalists Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey. Gonzalo loved drumming and early in his career studied both piano and drums. Despite the diversity of his background, Gonzalo’s initial formal musical training was entirely classical. He began his training at Manuel Saumell Conservatory at age 9, where he finally chose the piano as his main instrument. He moved up to middle-school at Amadeo Roldan Conservatory and finally earned his degree in music composition from Havana’s Institute of Fine Arts in 1983.
By that time he was already playing in clubs and music halls in Havana. He toured France and Africa with Orquesta Aragon in 1980 and introduced his ownGrupo Projecto to the North Sea and Berlin Festivals in 1985. Egrem Studios of Havana was the first to record his music during the early and mid ’80′s and these discs, Inicio, an album of piano solos andConcierto Negro, are still available. Beginning in 1986 Gonzalo began recording for Messidor of Frankfurt, Germany and put out three highly acclaimed albums for that label with his Cuban Quartet entitled Mi Gran Pasion,Live in Havana, and Giraldilla. On the strength of these works Gonzalo began attracting international attention and in 1986 a chance meeting in Havana with bassist Charlie Haden brought him to the attention of Blue Note Records‘ president, Bruce Lundvall, and thus began an association first withToshiba/EMI of Japan and later with Blue Note in the US which resulted in 14 discs being released. (See the Discography page for a complete listing.) In July 1990, he appeared as a surprise guest in an historic performance, available on the CD Discovery with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian (ex Bill Evans trio members) at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland.
Further works eventually brought Gonzalo both a Latin Grammy for Jazz Album of the Year, Supernova, as well as a Grammy for co-production with Charlie Haden on Nocturne, a Verve release of Cuban and Mexican boleros and ballads. Gonzalo has to his credit 15 Grammy nominations, including five for Jazz Album of the Year, Rapsodia in 1995, Antiguoand Inner Voyage in 1999, Supernova in 2002, Avatar in 2008. Among recent honors, in June 2001 Gonzalo received the SFJAZZ Leaders Circle Laureate Award and in 2002 he performed as Artist-in-Residence at the Montreal Jazz Festival together with Chucho Valdez. Gonzalo has performed with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Ignacio Berroa, Chick Corea, Al DiMeola, Herbie Hancock,Charlie Haden, Katia Labeque, Richard Galliano, Francisco Cepsedes, Tony Martinez, Issac Delgado, Juan Luis Guerra, Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Eric Harland, Dennis Chambers, Brian Bromberg, Ron Carter, Yosvany Terry,Matt Brewer, Mike Rodriguez, Marcus Gilmore, Pat Martino, Giovanni Hidalgo,John Patitucci, Jack DeJohnette, Joao Bosco, Eric Harland , Ivan Linz and many others.
Gonzalo continues to tour the world as a solo pianist in jazz and classical settings as well as band leader, employing the worlds top side men in club and concert engagements. His active repertoire has continued to expand beyond straight-ahead, bop, Afro-Cuban and other forms of jazz into the worlds of traditional Cuban and Mexican ballads, boleros and Cuban classical works. He has developed his own very distinctive voice, challenging the traditional musical classifications of the day.
His art continues to evolve and draw inspiration from both his Afro-Cuban heritage and the world around us. Our Maestro will continue shaping and reshaping the themes, forms and rhythms which have provided him with inspiration for his life’s work. In whichever idiom he works, his future musical creations will be melodious, rhythmic, exciting and bear in their intriguing intricacies the artist’s inherent intention of transforming the daily routines of our lives into something more beautiful and significant.
Gonzalo now produces and records for his own record label and production company, 5Passion LLC, founded in 2010.
The first offering is entitled ‘Fé” (Faith), a solo piano offering that is an exquisite foray into the depths of color and emotion that reward the listener with every spin. In 2011, Gonzalo released “XXI Centrury” , a double CD featuring music from various periods and genres, and features the likes of Ignacio Berroa, Matt Brewer, Marcus Gilmore, Lionel Leouke , Pedro Martinez and Gonzalo Rubalcaba.
Gonzalo is currently working on his next offering, to be released in 2014. In addition, his 5Passion label plans to release several discs from Yosvany Terry, Ignacio Berroa, Jose Armando Gola and Alex Sipiagin, all of whom are considered some of the best musicians on the planet.