A report by Gary Graff for Billboard.
Ruben Gonzalez, the Cuban pianist brought to new fame as part of the Buena Vista Social Club in the late ’90s, has been gone for 14 years. But the late legend lives again on the upcoming expanded release of Introducing…Ruben Gonzalez, his 1997 “comeback” album.
The set, which comes out June 16 — coinciding with the theatrical release of the sequel documentary Buena Vista Social Club: Adios — builds on the original set with new extended versions of “Tres Lindas Cubanas” and “Tumbao,” as well as the unreleased bonus track “Descarga Ruben Y Cachaito.” Along with that, Gonzalez’s label, World Circuit, is circulating video recorded on April 6, 1997 at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, Gonzalez’s first-ever solo show outside of Cuba. Check out previously unreleased footage of him performing “Dos Gardenias” below.
“Listening to these recordings again, it’s amazing to be transported back to that magical studio scene,” Introducing…Ruben Gonzalez producer Nick Gold tells Billboard. “It’s as if you’re sitting there amongst these incredible musicians as they conjure up the sublime.” Gold says it was also revelatory to have the Ronnie Scott’s footage to show as part of the promotional campaign for the reissues. “Those first intimate shows in London were so special,” Gold recalls. “People felt so privileged to get this close to the magic. It was such a rare treat to get so close the magic in those first shows outside Cuba. Here they actually were. In an intimate club and close enough to reach out and touch. And they really were that good.”
Gonzalez released one other solo album, Chanchullo in 2000, and appeared on albums by the Afro-Cuban All Stars, Raul Planas and the Buena Vista Social Club before his Dec. 8, 2003 death in Havana at the age of 84. Introducing…Ruben Gonzalez was recorded live in the studio during a two-day session with Jerry Boys when the pianist was 77 years old. The reissue, mastered from the original tapes, comes out on CD and as a 180-gram vinyl double LP.