The latest supergroup to emerge from the Latin jazz scene has taken an appropriate name. "Volcan" is short for volcano, which as the album points out, embodies the essential elements: earth, air, wind, and fire. Executive Producer Gary Galimidi writes in his notes that volcanoes loom large over otherwise unremarkable landscapes. Together these ideas form a fitting analogy for the quartet; not only is Volcan an eruptive force of nature, these four players all rise high above the musical landscape.
Members of the quartet — Gonzalo Rubalcaba on keyboards; Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, drums; Jose Armando Gola, bass; and Giovanni "Mañenguito" Hidalgo, percussion — have played together before as side-men, but, until now, not as a distinct group. Each of them brings to the table a sensibility imbued with a world of Latin jazz tradition filtered through a forward-looking, contemporary vision.
The foremost example of that vision is the remarkable range of futuristic sounds Rubalcaba coaxes out of his many keyboards, including acoustic and electric piano and Kurzweil, Korg, and Virus synthesizers. While Rubalcaba is the driving melodic and harmonic force of the album, all of the others are key players. Depending on the tune's feel, Gola is capable of a percussive acoustic bass or an electric sound on a par with that of Jaco Pastorius. Hernandez and Hidalgo, two premier polyrhythmic percussionists, never fail to propel the music forward.
The group's sole writer is the prolific Rubalcaba, who contributes three excellent tunes to the album. Other notable cuts include covers of Chucho Valdes' "Ponle La Clave" and Dizzy Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts," which is transformed into a wonderful percussion fest. The only tune featuring vocals is "Corsario," a beautiful song by João Bosco on which guest vocalist Maridalia Hernandez sings evocatively, surrounded by gorgeous support. An instrumental version of "Corsario" is also included, and proves to be one of the album's most beautiful tracks.