ALFREDO RODRIGUEZ, SOUNDS OF SPACE

I was introduced to this dynamic 26-year-old Cuban pianist when he opened for Chucho Valdes in January, 2012, at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, NJ. On stage, he quickly established himself as a force, a powerhouse pianist with a touch of mischievous showmanship – he had the sell-out crowd leaning forward in our seats in anticipation of how he would play his next composition. At one point, he took strips of paper and wove them among the piano strings to create a buzzy, electronic effect.

Having fled Cuba in 2009 by way of Mexico, his crackling debut album in the US, “Sounds Of Space,” (Mack Avenue Records) is a compelling tour du force and it’s essentially free of theatrics save for Rodriguez’s lightning fast reflexes and punchy keyboard runs. No wonder Quincy Jones was impressed enough to co-produce this date. Rodriguez composed and arranged an all-original set that builds on his influences, from the artists of his homeland to Bud Powell (“Cubop”) and yes, even Ahmad Jamal (“Crossing The Border”). He gets a major assist from saxophonist/clarinetist Ernesto Vega, bassists Gaston Joya and Peter Slavov, and drummers Michael Olivera and Francisco Mela. For a first recording, Rodriguez provides plenty of wow, with a front-and-center enthusiasm that gives “Sounds Of Space” its speed and invention. (11 tracks: 58:27 minutes)

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JAZZ IN SPACE: ALFREDO RODRIGUEZ, SOUNDS OF SPACE

Monday, April 2, 2012

ALFREDO RODRIGUEZ, SOUNDS OF SPACE

I was introduced to this dynamic 26-year-old Cuban pianist when he opened for Chucho Valdes in January, 2012, at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, NJ. On stage, he quickly established himself as a force, a powerhouse pianist with a touch of mischievous showmanship – he had the sell-out crowd leaning forward in our seats in anticipation of how he would play his next composition. At one point, he took strips of paper and wove them among the piano strings to create a buzzy, electronic effect.

Having fled Cuba in 2009 by way of Mexico, his crackling debut album in the US, “Sounds Of Space,” (Mack Avenue Records) is a compelling tour du force and it’s essentially free of theatrics save for Rodriguez’s lightning fast reflexes and punchy keyboard runs. No wonder Quincy Jones was impressed enough to co-produce this date. Rodriguez composed and arranged an all-original set that builds on his influences, from the artists of his homeland to Bud Powell (“Cubop”) and yes, even Ahmad Jamal (“Crossing The Border”). He gets a major assist from saxophonist/clarinetist Ernesto Vega, bassists Gaston Joya and Peter Slavov, and drummers Michael Olivera and Francisco Mela. For a first recording, Rodriguez provides plenty of wow, with a front-and-center enthusiasm that gives “Sounds Of Space” its speed and invention. (11 tracks: 58:27 minutes)

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