Alfredo Rodríguez Deploys Abundant Technique


Alfredo Rodríguez is among the 25 artists DownBeat thinks will help shape jazz in the decades to come.

(Photo: Anna Webber)

​On March 11, when the U.S. State Department advised Americans to “reconsider” international travel in response to the emergent COVID-19 crisis, Alfredo Rodríguez was in Istanbul for a concert, midway through an extensive tour with bassist Richard Bona and percussionist Pedrito Martinez. The trio canceled its remaining engagements and the musicians headed for their respective homes. For Havana-born Rodríguez, this entailed flying to Madrid to join his girlfriend and their infant daughter, Aria. In July, the family relocated to Miami.

Rodríguez—who moved from Cuba to the States in 2009 and landed a contract with Quincy Jones’ management company—has adjusted psychologically. “I feel we should try to adapt to situations and take advantage of the opportunities they offer,” he said. “I was scheduled to be on the road and missing a lot of Aria’s growth. So, despite the economics and not playing for people, being able to be with her is a blessing.”

In addition to teaching online for multiple universities, composing music for films and his various duos, Rodríguez also is focusing on two prospective recording projects. One involves the videos he’s recently posted on social media with his working trio, which plays on the 2018 release, The Little Dream (Mack Avenue). “We’re transforming covers, music that people know, into timba, the popular music of Cuba,” he said.

He developed intimacy with the Cuban canon during formative years. The son of an eminent singer who hosted a popular TV variety show, Rodríguez was a child prodigy who also focused on the Euroclassical canon.

During his teens, he heard Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert, spurring an ongoing passion for deploying abundant technique toward tabula rasa expression. Early on, he also developed studio discipline, playing piano and serving as music director for his father’s TV show, collaborating with numerous world-class Cuban stars.

Rodríguez is adamant that his admixture of high precision and intuition will continue to infuse his music. “I’ve looked to be global for a long time,” he explained. “I like music that is involved with all regions. Even though I can’t travel, technology gives me the tools to go online and listen to music from everywhere. You can observe culture, and incorporate so many good things into your life.” DB

This story originally was published in the November 2020 issue of DownBeat. Subscribe here.

  • Herb_Alpert_-_Press_Photo_01_%28credit_Dewey_Nicks%29_copy.jpg

    “I like to just click on songs that touched me and see if I could do them in a personal way — especially if it’s a well-known song,” Alpert said about selecting material for his new album.

  • Les_McCann_by_C_Andrew_Hovan_copy.jpg

    McCann’s deep roots in gospel and the blues gave his music a gritty, earthy quality and a large supply of soulful licks.

  • 1_Black_Men_of_Labor_Second_Line_Parade_copy.jpg

    The Black Men of Labor Club leads a second line parade, from the documentary City of a Million Dreams.

  • image002_copy.jpg

    ​The Blue Note Quintet includes Gerald Clayton, Immanuel Wilkins, Joel Ross, Kendrick Scott and Matt Brewer. The all-star collective embarks on a North American tour this month.

  • 24_Emmet_Cohen_GABRIELAGABRIELAA_copy_2.JPG

    Emmet Cohen, right, with one of his heroes, Houston Person.