When I started playing this CD, I thought it would be a straightforward salsa disc,Read more with exciting rhythm underlying a virtuosic pianist. In fact the first track is the catchiest on the album, with a memorable theme pronounced by Alfredo Rodriguez. However, as the album continued, I was astounded at the diversity and inventiveness of the music, and the brilliance of Alfredo's piano playing.
Alfredo Rodriguez is a Cuban pianist and composer in his twenties. The album's impact is assisted by Quincy Jones' co-production. Quincy says of Alfredo: "He is very special, and I do not say that easily because I have been surrounded by the best musicians in the world my entire life". Alfredo's special qualities are evident in the very first track, where he mixes typically Latin pianistics with a jazz feeling. At one point he even throws in a Don Pullen-style swirl on the keyboard.
Rodriguez composed all eleven tunes on the album and they exhibit a remarkably wide range. For example,
Sueno de Paseo is a placid ballad in which Alfredo and Ernesto Vega establish a serene mood. It is followed by the intensely different
Silence, which is anything but silent. It swirls around agitatedly, with splendid solos from Rodriguez, Ernesto Vega on soprano sax, and bassist Gaston Joya. Here and elsewhere, the rhythm is miraculously kept boiling by just one drummer, without extra percussionists.
Cu-Bop is Alfredo's idea of what bebop would have sounded like if Bud Powell had been born in Cuba. It is a good example of Rodriguez' ability to play melodically while improvising passionately.
April also reveals that Rodriguez is perfectly happy playing the piano on his own. His classical apprenticeship shows through his impulsive jazzy moments.
Oxygen opens with a wild drum solo from Francisco Mela before developing into a roller-coaster piano trio excursion. The title-track seems to be in nine-in-a-bar and it is just as intriguingly unpredictable as the other tracks.
Crossing the Border sounds reminiscent of the opening
Obafrica at the start but then meanders off in fascinating directions which might have been inspired by Alfredo hearing Keith Jarrett's
Köln Concert - the moment when Rodriguez decided that improvisation was the main path to follow.
…y bailaria la negra? (don't ask me) is dedicated to Ernesto Lecuona, pianist and composer of such popular tunes as
The Breeze and I. Here Rodriguez seems to be paying homage to his Cuban roots.
Transculturation is a complex, tearaway piece with a dislocated beat which appears to change every few seconds until it settles into a bright salsa beat in which Rodriguez shares solos with Ernesto Vega on soprano sax. The final track,
Fog, brings in a quartet of woodwind and brass to add atmosphere to a misty, mysterious composition.
This is the debut album from Alfredo Rodriguez and it promises great things for his future.