“The greatest piano soloist I have ever heard in my life. He’s like a Cuban cross between Thelonious Monk and Felix the Cat.”— Ry Cooder

“Gonzalez was known for his suave virtuosity and playful charisma.” —NPR Music

New footage of famed Cuban pianist Ruben Gonzalez’s first-ever show outside of Cuba premieres at Billboard. The video features the song “Dos Gardenias” in an April 6, 1997 performance at the iconic Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London. See the post HERE and share the video HERE.

Gonzalez’s classic debut album Introducing…Ruben Gonzalez, will be reissued on double 180gm vinyl and CD on June 16 via World Circuit Records. The LP features extended and unreleased tracks from World Circuit’s storied two-week Havana recording blitz of 1996, which also produced the self-titled album Buena Vista Social Club and Afro Cuban All Stars’ first studio album, A Toda Cuba le Gusta, on which Gonzalez also played. The reissue coincides with the summer 2017 worldwide release of Buena Vista Social Club: Adios, a feature-length documentary about the band that features Gonzalez in depth.

When Gonzalez recorded this—his first solo album—he was 77 years old. The release led to a remarkable late flowering of his career that lasted until his death in 2003, as he toured the world and was revealed as one of the timeless legends of Cuban music.

Introducing…Ruben Gonzalez was recorded live in the studio by Jerry Boys in just two days immediately following the completion of Buena Vista Social Club, with many of the same musicians using ambient techniques that gave it a full and dynamic natural sound, as if the listener was with the musicians inside EGREM’s 1950s studio in old Havana. The band accompanying Gonzalez includes bassist Cachaito Lopez, Amadito Valdés on timbales, Roberto Garcia on bongos and guiro, Carlito Gonzalez on congas and trumpeter Manuel “El Guajiro” Mirabal. Mastered from the original mix tapes by Alex Wharton at Abbey Road, several tracks are now heard in unedited, full-length form for the first time, with the addition of a new track that has never been released.

On the album, Gonzalez recorded (without overdubs) a selection of classic Cuban compositions and rhythms including the cha cha cha “La Engañadora” (written by Enrique Jorrín, with whom Gonzalez played for 25 years), the classic danzóns “Tres Lindas Cubanas” and “Almendra,” the extended descarga jam of “Tumbao,” the guaracha “Mandinga” and the bolero “Como Siento Yo.”

The story of Gonzalez’s rediscovery was told in Wim Wenders’ award-winning Buena Vista Social Club film. A maestro whose piano playing in the 1940s helped define the Cuban sound as it’s known today, Gonzalez had virtually stopped making music by the 1990s. Suffering from arthritis, he no longer even owned a piano.

Invited to come out of retirement in 1996 to play first on the Afro-Cuban All Stars debut then on the Ry Cooder-produced Buena Vista Social Club album, Gonzalez’s excitement and dedication to the projects motivated his emphatic return. Every morning he had been the first to arrive at the studio in Havana, waiting for the doors to be unlocked. Once inside he played all day long, prompting Cooder to dub him “the greatest piano soloist I have ever heard in my life.”

Realising that here was a very special performer who deserved his own showcase, World Circuit producer Nick Gold invited Gonzalez to record his own solo debut, more than half a century after he had made his first recordings in 1943 with the legendary Arsenio Rodríguez.

Played in his own vibrant and imaginative style with an intuitive chemistry among his fellow musicians, almost 20 years on Introducing…Ruben Gonzalez remains one of the all-time classic recordings of Cuban music.

For more information, please contact Krista Williams, Nick Mallchok, or Carla Sacks at Sacks & Co., 212.741.1000.

1. La Engañadora
2. Cumbanchero
3. Tres Lindas Cubanas (Extended)
4. Melodía Del Rio
5. Mandinga
6. Siboney
7. Almendra
8. Tumbao (Extended)
9. Como Siento Yo
10. Descarga Ruben Y Cachaito (Previously Unreleased)