International Street Date 03/13/12
U.S. Street Date 03/27/12
Mack Avenue seems to have the market cornered on impressive debut releases with Alfredo Rodriguez as one of the most impressive debuts since Gonzalo Rubalcaba's 1987 debut Concierto Negro. Artistic credibility is a virtual lock with the release Sounds of Space having been co-produced by the legendary Quincy Jones.
A personal and at times autobiographical release finds Rodriguez with a keen appreciation of where he has been and a genuine enthusiasm as to the musical journey he is now on. The eleven tunes on this stunning release are originals composed and arranged by Rodriguez with acknowledgement to Cuban masters such as Ernesto Lecuona as well as Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. The back story concerning Rodriguez is as equally compelling as his prolific talents as a genuine jazz triple threat. After playing some dates with his father in Mexico in 2009, the Cuban born Rodriguez hopped a plane and flew to Laredo Texas where he was promptly arrested and held by border police. With little more than the clothes on his back and his music, Rodriguez informed authorities he would keep trying until he was finally able to make it to the United States. In a stroke of luck for the jazz community the authorities talked among themselves and placed Rodriguez in a cab and sent him on his way. Rodriguez was not to be deterred from his dream after being asked to perform for Quincy Jones after the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2006. Jones gave the young Rodriguez his stamp of approval and extended an offer to work with Rodriguez in the future which has now lead to Sounds Of Space.
Opening with the adventurous "Qbafrica" which fuses an avant-garde approach to Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and African music, Rodriguez pays tribute to the Quincy Jones ideal of a global cultural unity. The syncopated tune percolates with a truly unique world music sound, a myriad of influences brought together in a organic presentation of authenticity. "Cu-bop" is a tune where the talents of Rodriguez take center stage while drawing upon the influence of Bud Powell and the conceptual idea of what bop may have sounded like had Powell been born in Cuba. Shifting harmonics on the fly but with an intense Cuban pop of vitality has "Cu-bop" displaying a keen lyrical swing and an infectious syncopation of melodic development especially with bassist Gaston Joya and Michael Olivera showcasing their ability to play with the type of finesse necessary to bring this trio into a unique melodic hybrid all their own. "Crossing The Border" was written the first week living in the United States and is a reflection of the stress and uncertainty upon taking that gigantic leap of musical faith by coming to America. A driving intensity finds Rodriguez in a musical happy place somewhere between Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner. Odd meter and the punctuated attack of Rodriguez highlights the emotional side of this non-musical concept playing a dramatic role in his artistic DNA.
The virtuoso talent of Rodriguez is literally off the charts. At certain points there is a distinct feel of a piano duet performed on solo piano. There is an incredibly organic quality to Sounds Of Space which is maintained consistently despite a marvelous textured appeal of melody and lyrical development.
Artistically gifted and a technical wizard finds Alfredo Rodriguez as the future of modern jazz whose musical stock is an arrow pointing straight up. Being a critic is far more than taking a critical approach, it is about being a jazz advocate. Look under every possible rock and you would be hard pressed to find fault in this virtually flawless recording.
5 Stars. A stellar performance.
Tracks: Qbafrica; Sueno De Paseo; Silence; Cu-Bop; April; Oxygen; Sounds Of Silence; Crossing The Border; ...Y Bailaria La Negra ( A Ernesto Lecuona); Transculturation; Fog.
Personnel: Alfredo Rodriguez: piano, melodica (1); Gaston Joya: bass (2,3,4,7,9,10,11); Peter Slavov: bass (1,6); Michael Olivera: drums, percussion (2,3,4,7,9,10,11); Francisco Mela: drums (1,6); Ernesto Vega: clarinet (7), bass clarinet (7), soprano saxophone (2,3,9,10); Santa Cecila Quartet: flute, oboe, french horn, bassoon (11).
Photo Courtesy of Mack Avenue / Anna Webber
Video via You Tube
Special Thanks to Jordy Freed at DL Media