on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2017 24 Jan

Tocororo – Afredo Rodriguez

von: Brian Whistler Filed under: Blog | TB | Comments off



I first became aware of this young Cuban pianist through my then 80 year old mom. She had gone to a luncheon, and amazingly enough, a young protege of Quincy Jones named Alfredo Rodriguez played a set of solo piano pieces for a group of elderly ladies. I was waiting in the car to pick her up and when my mom walked out, she spoke of being dazzled by this young man’s mastery. She was clutching a piano trio album entitled Sounds of Space, and I promptly put the album on her car CD player. I was immediately blown away by his writing, creativity and supple virtuosity. I also immediately appropriated the CD. (with mom’s permission, of course!)

The second album, The Invasion Parade, was a more ambitious album, featuring expanded instrumentation, synthesizer, electronics and sax, even a couple of vocals if I remember correctly, yet somehow fell short of its vision. For one thing, Alfredo still had a long way to go with his synth programming.

Tocororo is the fulfillment of the promise of Invasion Parade without any of the the missteps of his sophomore release, a kind of conceptual, world jazz album that finds a special sweet spot where all the elements come into balance. Although rooted in his own Cuban jazz and folkloric traditions, Rodriguez incorporates jazz fusion elements along with African and Indian influences. There are a couple of tunes that deploy a South Indian vocalist in a truly inspired way that keeps its harmony western, yet allows for traditional Indian vocalizations to soar above the complex harmonic underpinning. To top it off, Bassist/vocalist Richard Bona makes a guest appearance.

Oddly enough, some of this stuff reminds me of Tigran Hamasyan’s recent fusion masterpieces, Shadow Theater and Mockroot. Odd time signatures accentuate quirky melodies, resulting in a kinetic waterfall of sound. At times I even hear influences of the Bad Plus. Good things all … yet Rodriguez is far from being a good imitator – he’s one of a growing generation of musicians who are forging their own musical vision and are, thank heaven, not in the least concerned with ruffling the feathers of jazz purists.

Perhaps only guitar master Nguyen Le on albums such as Bakida, the breakthrough North African masterpiece Maghreb and Friends, or his more recent east meets west trio, Saiyuki, comes close to this kind of perfect blend, in which a synergistic magic occurs, where the musicians seem to inspire one another to experiment and move beyond their own cultural/musical identity, resulting in a joyous noise that transcends cultural boundaries.

Tocororo should’ve been on my 2016 top 10 list, perhaps even number one. It’s that good.

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