A relatively early member of a movement of Cuban jazz players into New York, Alfredo Rodriguez was born near Havana in 1936, where he mainly trained in classical music and French. In 1960, he moved to Manhattan, where he spent some time studying jazz under Albert Dailey and Bill Evans, and then moved into roughly a decade of playing with various Caribbean acts in the big city. After a brief stint in Miami in the early '70s, he began working as a session player and club performer in New York with notable success, recorded best on the 1976 album Ready for Freddie with Patato Valdes. Rodriguez moved to Paris in 1985, working as a bandleader in a market less saturated with Cuban jazz and gaining his due respect as a pianist. From that point, his excursions into major-release recordings have met with relative success, from the acclaimed Cuba Linda sessions to early work with Cubanismo! to the meeting of exiled Cuban masters Los Originales. Most recently, he's begun work within Europe with a group of friends from various Cuban groups calling themselves los Acereko and dazzling European audiences with heavy doses of Cuban jazz.
In 2003 Cuban Jazz was released on Naxos World, marking the first recording with los Acereko. (AMG)
Pianist Rodriguez serves up a panoramic view of Afro-Cuban music on this dizzyingly varied release. He uses different-sized lineups, but his literate, complementary piano playing is in the midst of it all. Some of the more prominent sidemen include trumpeter Jesus Alemany, saxophonist/percussionist Yosvany Terry, percussionists Tata Guines and Monguito, bassist Carlos Del Puerto, Jr., and, on loan from Orquesta Aragon, flautist Eduardo Rubio and violinists Dagoberto and Lazarito Gonzalez. Rodriguez contributes some writing and arranging. The album's most jazz-oriented number,
"Tumbao a Peruchin," is an all-out descarga/jam composed by Rodriguez and featuring Peruchin Jr. on guitar.
"Tumba, Mi Tumba," also composed by Rodriguez, is a Haitian francesa arranged and directed by Leonardo Alexander; dancing drums and Enrique Navarro's flute keep the pianist jumping on this number. Rodriguez also penned "Mercedita Ya Me Voy," which features vocal choir chants and an uptempo bridge driven by montuno piano and the Gonzalez brothers' forceful violins.
The conga-driven "Para Francia Flores" features Valentin Serrano Pezo on a Chinese cornet, while "Canto de Palo" speaks to spirits of the deceased, with Rodriguez' piano intensifying the inquiring chants.
More tranquil is the montuno violin-led version of "What a Difference a Day's Made," which features Rubio's exceptional flute playing.
The simmering title cut contains a long vocal and percussion intro and Rodriguez's placid yet ruminating piano. No stone is left unturned on this program of variety, depth, and fine musicianship.
The CD was recorded at the famed Egrem Studios in Havana with local musicians. It's a fine example of what's happening in this music today, and it makes a strong argument for Rodriguez as one of the best Afro-Cuban pianist/bandleaders going. (AMG)
01. Tumbao A Peruchin
02. Cuba Linda
03. Cuando Vuelvo A Tu Lado
04. Canto De Palo
05. Tumba, Mi Tumba
06. Mercedita Ya Me Voy (To Mercedes)
07. Drume Negrita
08. Para Francia Flores Y Para Cuba Tambien
Personnel includes: Alfredo Rodriguez (piano); Gregorio Hernandez "El Goyo" (vocals); Pedro Justiz Marquez "Peruchin Jr" (guitar); Dagoberto Gonzalez, Lazarito Gonzalez (violin); Eduardo Rubio, Enrique Navarro (flute); Yosvany Terry Cabrera (tenor saxophone); Jesus Alemany, Luis Alemany (trumpet); Carlos Del Puerto, Jr. (bass); Tata Guines (congas); Dave Pattman (bongos); Emilito Del Monte (timbales); Mario Jauregui "Aspirina" (quinto, congas, percussion); Eladio Terry Gonzales (chekere); Justo Pelladito, Amado J. Dedeu (congas, percussion); Xiomara Larrinaga, Mario Dreque "Chabalonga" (background vocals).
Tumba Francesa "La Caridad De Oriente" De Santiago De Cuba includes: Flavio Figueroa, Flavio Figueroa, Jr., Gilberto Hernandez (percussion).
Recorded at Egrem Studios, Havana, Cuba and Egrem Studios, Santiago De Cuba, Cuba in May 1996.
Includes liner notes by Mike Charroppin.