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Julius Rodriguez: Let Sound Tell All

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Julius Rodriguez: Let Sound Tell All
At 23 years, New York-based keyboards player and drummer Julius Rodriguez is close to being a founder member of Gen Z and so was an adolescent when the iPad was giving way to streaming and a new, randomised perspective on jazz and music in general was being shaped. The Juillard School dropout—Rodriguez quit in 2018 to go on tour with rapper A$AP Rocky—stirs gospel, jazz, classical, R&B, hip-hop, electronica and advanced post-production techniques into the mix. It may not represent the entire future of jazz, but it does represent, like it or not, part of it.

Jazz-plus hybrids are nothing new, of course, and the idea received hefty boosts earlier in the 21st century from pianist Robert Glasper and trumpeter Roy Hargrove, among others. But what distinguishes Gen Z jazz from previous mash-ups, which were merely post-modern, is that, as a 360-degree post-streaming spin on the music, it is the product of a sonic universe where genres, artists and traditions rub up against each other with febrile promiscuity.

Something of a child prodigy, Rodriguez was, we are told, impressing audiences at Smalls Jazz Club with his rendition of Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train" when he was still a pre-teen, and A$AP Rocky was followed by Rodriguez's membership of bassist Alexander Claffy's trio. The latter liaison is documented on tenor saxophonist and vocalist Michael Stephenson's Michael Stephenson Meets The Alexander Claffy Trio, released on Cory Weeds' Cellar Live label in 2021. Rodriguez's tap root appears to be embedded in jazz. Certainly, one can hear the echoes of John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk in his music as clearly as those of Solange.

There are vocals on a couple of tracks, but basically Let Sound Tell All is a keyboard-led trio album. Guest horn players figure on three tracks. Trumpeter Giveton Gelin has three solos laid on top of each other (George Martin-style) on "Gift Of The Moon," and is heard again towards the end of the deep-gospel "Where Grace Abounds" (check the YouTube below), the third single from the album (and the most straight-ahead track). Tenor saxophonist Morgan Guerin rips it up on "Two Way Street," which is essentially a duo workout with Rodriguez, on drums, in the manner of Coltrane and Elvin Jones.

Postscript: Rodriguez is among a growing number of musicians who have enough self-assurance to recognise that less often means more. Let Sound Tell All comes in at under 35:00, well short of the digitally bloated playing times of too many modern albums.

Track Listing

Blues At The Barn; All I Do; Interlude; Gift Of The Moon; Two Way Street; Where Grace Abounds; Elegy (for Cam); In Heaven; Philip’s Thump.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Julius Rodriguez: piano, Hammond B3, synths, Rhodes, drums; Morgan Guerin: saxophone (3, 5); Giveton Gelin: trumpet (4, 6); Philip Norris: bass (1, 6-8); Ben Wolfe: bass (2); Daryl Johns: bass (4); Joe Saylor: drums (1, 2); Brian Richburg Jr: drums (3, 6-8); Jongkook Kim: drums (4); Mariah Cameron: vocals (2); Nick Hakim: vocal (6).

Album information

Title: Let Sound Tell All | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Verve Records


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