Alfredo Rodriguez: Jazz Piano Improvisation Overflow


The 1st visit of Alfredo Rodriguez to Seattle will surely result in more fans for the raising Latin jazz star.

Alfredo came to Seattle’s Dimitrious Jazz Alley this week, bringing along Bulgarian bassist Peter Slavov and Cuban drummer Francisco Mela. The trio of young artists clearly reflected the joy they felt playing their Latin jazz music for the Seattle audience.

Alfredo Rodriguez Piano Improvisations Bring Memories of Keith Jarrett

Alfredo Rodriguez at the Jazz Alley in Seattle.
Alfredo Rodriguez performing at the Jazz Alley in Seattle.

The first song opened with Alfredo hitting the piano low notes to create a mesmerizing sound effect, which was followed by a prolonged solo before Francisco Melo and Peter Slavov joined in.  From there, Alfredo offered a really entertaining show, where his talent took center stage and the audience at Seattle’s Jazz Alley didn’t want to miss a single note he played.

The unity and communication among the trio of Latin jazz musicians also added to the beauty of the show, particularly with the high degree of complexity and improvisation of some of the pieces.

As Alfredo Rodriguez improvises, he moves and contorts his body in a way that immediately bring to mind his jazz idol Keith Jarrett. The resemblance is limited to using movements of the body as a way to either call or reflect inspiration and emotion while playing.

Alfredo moves while playing piano
Alfredo moves while playing piano

However, the moves are different and the playing styles, are different. Alfredo has created a unique style of his own, in which he borrowed Jarrett’s approach to liberty of expression, but creating and expressing his music in his own way.

As Latin Jazz master percussionist Bobby Sanabria says, the beauty of Latin jazz is that it can drink from the musical well of traditional jazz as well as from the well of Afro-Cuban and other Latin music genres.

Cuba is one of the most musically rich countries in the world, and Alfredo’s second song was his version of a classic Cuban “danzón” titled “Veinte Años”, where Alfredo improvised freely.

The improvisation on the Latin jazz pieces was such that during a number in which Alfredo grabbed a drum stick to play percussion against the piano to accompany Francisco Mela. Mela let out a laugh at the end of a song as Alfredo suddenly ended the song in a good note.

The Joy of Music

Francisco Mela demonstrated why he is a master of the drums
Francisco Mela demonstrated why he is a master of the drums

Watching the Alfredo Rodriguez Latin jazz trio was so wonderful because these young musicians reflect so much joy for doing what they love, which is playing Latin jazz. The experience is like when you visit a “virgin” beach in an un-populated coastal area. You see the beauty of nature unspoiled by crowds and commercialism. In the same way I hope Quincy Jones doesn’t over-commercialize Alfredo Rodriguez so that the Latin jazz trio can keep the joy for many years and it doesn’t become a “job”.

This notion I had of them, which I wrote in my notes before the Jazz Alley concert concluded, was validated when after most of the audience left the Jazz Alley, and Alfredo had signed his last autograph, he went over to the drums and started playing with them, just making some noise.

Soon Peter decided that he would sit in the piano and also play around some. Francisco would not be left behind, so he went and grabbed the bass, and before you knew it, they were improvising in instruments they don’t play; sometimes one giving hints of how to play a part to the other.

The joy of music is what makes music great. Alfredo brings that joy and passion to Latin jazz, which I hope is contagious.

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