Friday, June 01, 2012

Alfredo Rodriguez - NYC Jazz Record

Alfredo Rodriguez - Sounds of Space
Pianist Alfredo Rodriguez is only 26. Although he
hails from Cuba, he isn’t a ‘Cuban’ pianist, he’s a jazz
one. He may use a few montunos and the occasional
Spanish word in his song titles but this release goes far
beyond that Caribbean nation.

He has a lot of weapons at his disposal, including
a man named Quincy Jones offering his production
expertise. What Jones’ contributions are isn’t
immediately obvious but he has lent his credibility to a
unique young artist. This is a straightforward,
unadorned debut that most importantly highlights
Rodriguez’ impeccable command of the 88.
Within the first 30 seconds Rodriguez establishes
himself with a display of playful versatility,
overdubbing a melodica over his jittery piano-led
melody “Qbafrica”. Countryman Francisco Mela, who
plays drums on a couple of the tracks, provides a
subdued cross-stick pulse that drives the tune without
getting in the way. “Cu-Bop” has the pianist channeling
a twisting Bud Powell with tricky lines over a pulsating
backbeat from the album’s other drummer Michael
Olivera. “Transculturation”, driven by Rodriguez’
loping left-hand, draws a shimmering performance
from soprano saxophonist Ernesto Vega, who also
contributes fine clarinet work elsewhere on the album.
Album closer “Fog” gets gloomy assistance from the
Santa Cecilia Quartet, which adds cinematic touches to
Rodriguez’ high-register ambling.

The highlights of the album, however, are
Rodriguez’ two tour de force solo performances. The
brooding “April” hinges upon his resonating keyboard
as much as it does on his pyrotechnics while “Crossing
the Border”, a reference to Rodriguez’ entry into
America by way of Mexico, is a breathless assault of
mutant montunos, deliberately disjointed harmonies, a
fearless left-hand and a brief uncredited clave. In just
under seven minutes, Rodriguez lets it all out on the
keyboard, occasionally firing at the speed of light
before collapsing into a legato crawl only to close with
an even faster pace than before.

It is easy to see why someone like Quincy Jones
would be interested in a talent like Rodriguez.
Thankfully the album isn’t peppered with guest stars
or a heavy-handed ProTools approach. Just an
ambitious young pianist giving it his all.

Alfredo Rodriguez @ NYC Jazz Record

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