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From Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, to Ingrid and Christine Jensen, the notion of first-rate siblings in jazz, while certainly not new, is always exciting. On Conversations, the Rodriguez brothers, pianist Robert and trumpeter Michael, deliver a heartfelt display of original modern jazz explorations with a vibrant Afro-Cuban backdrop.
The opening track, "Rowdy Rod, is a potent mix of edgy, progressive jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms. With seamless transitions from fiery rhumba clave to hard driving swing, the brothers don't waste any time letting you know exactly what this session is all about. Both Robert and Michael are quick to demonstrate their fearless approach to soloing that continues throughout the entire session.
Both brothers contribute compositions with a sophisticated intertwining of modern jazz harmony and in-depth understanding of traditional Cuban rhythms. The haunting modality of Robert's "Guayaquil provokes lyrical and introspective trumpet and piano soloing against the lively cumbia rhythm of the piece. The ostinato vamp towards the end gives drummer Antonio Sanchez plenty of room to stretch out. Robert's compositional skills are also highlighted on "Lerida," a buoyant waltz written for his wife and dominated by the warmth of Michael's flugelhorn. The fugal "Intro to Conversations is multi-tracked for flugelhorn and bass only and is a reflection of Robert's classical background. Michael's tunes, "Rude Awakening, the aforementioned "Rowdy Rod and the title track, are slightly more hard-edged and reminiscent in compositional style of the late trumpeter Woody Shaw.
Much like the Rodriguez brothers, who proudly acknowledge their Cuban heritage, saxophonist David Sanchez has always been an artist on the cutting edge of jazz who is able to maintain strong ties to his Puerto Rican roots. On two cuts, "Rude Awakening and "Midnight Excursion, the tenor titan adds a lively element of spontaneity and spirituality.
Conversations speaks to the unlimited possibilities of the fusion between jazz and Latin music. The Rodriguez brothers are daring risk takers who have the ability to push improvised music forward with vigorous optimism.
Track Listing: Rowdy Rod; Guayaquil; Lerida; Rude Awakenings; Spin; Intro To Conversations; Conversations; Midnight Excursion; El Manicero (The Peanut Vendor).
Personnel: Robert Rodriguez: piano; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet, flugelhorn; David Sanchez: tenor saxophone (4 & 8); Carlos Henriquez: bass (1, 3, 4, 7 & 8); Ricardo Rodriguez: bass (2, 5, 6 & 9); Antonio Sanchez: drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.