Rubén González Chanchullo (Nonesuch)
Reviewed by Harvey Pekar, Fri., Nov. 10, 2000
Chanchullo (Nonesuch)Along with Pedro "Peruchin" Juztiz and Luis "Lili" Martinez, Rubén González is credited with being among the major architects of a percussive, highly influential Afro-Cuban piano style of the Forties that featured complex counter-rhythms, both parallel and contrary motion, flashy runs, and splashy chords. González was a child prodigy who graduated from Cuba's Cienfuegos music conservatory at 15, and some classical influence can be heard in his work, which is often rhapsodic. On Chanchullo, his second album for Buena Vista Social Club sponsor Nonesuch, González is heard with his touring group, an all-star unit that includes conguero Anga Diaz, bassist Cachaito Lopez, trumpeter Guajiro Mirabal, and timbalero Amadito Valdes. Vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer and popular Senegalese singer Cheikh Lo, flutist Richard Egues, and guitarists Eliades Ochoa and Ry Cooder also make appearances. Though the album is aimed at a general audience, varied selections including descargas (jams) and Afro-Cuban standards in various genres (son montuno, danzon, son guajira, cha-cha-cha) there isn't a lot of groundbreaking being done even though it's all quite pleasing. González may no longer be in his prime, but he remains an inventive, spirited, and technically solid performer, helped along with fine solos contributed by Mirabal and trombonist Aguaje Ramos, whose warm tone and melodic playing is superb. Aside from Lo and Cooder, this band is roughly similar to the one Arsenio Rodriguez had in the Forties with González on piano. Their music was revolutionary then, and now González has come full circle back to it.