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Jose Rodriguez: Moments In Life

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Sometimes fascinating listening experiences can emanate from surprising sources. Such is the example with Moments in Life, an excellent CD from bassist Jose Rodriguez. Here a string quartet plus rhythm section delivers a five-finger handful of wide-ranging, highly enjoyable music with more than a dollop of Latin sauce.

While there is no straight ahead jazz or exotic experimentation either in repertoire or its performance, in Moments in Life Rodriguez has chosen a series of selections from well-known resources that are performed elegantly and beautifully. The playing across all of the selections is filled with passion and a Latin flair. Even the inclusion of "America the Beautiful" is performed with restrained gusto.

Rodriguez, who has performed with some of the best-known groups in jazz and Latin music, is well-known among Latin, jazz, and classical musicians in the New York City area. With Moments in Life he steps out here most admirably as leader.

In addition to the aforementioned "America the Beautiful," Rodriguez presents "Caribbean Fantasy," a mini-suite of diverse rhythm and tonal texture. It includes the Caribbean rhythms and dances with danzon, cha-cha, reggae, and mambo features. The piece flows through these dance types quite smoothly. When performed with this string/rhythm instrumentation, the suite selections take on an added tonal dimension. This is fun music. An outtake of the mambo segment of "Caribbean Fantasy" is offered as its own selection. Caliente con brio—hot, for sure.

The title selection, "Moments in Life" is a beautifully composed and performed piece. It haunts and attracts with its lines. While not clichéd or imitating them in the least, there are very distant overtones here of such beautiful selections as "Stormy Weather" and Thad Jones's "A Child is Born." All moments in life, those minor and major—all beautiful.

Rodriguez, trained as a classical bassist (he also plays electric bass in other formats), sends up a fine solo performance of "Dragonetti Waltz #3" recorded in live performance. Domenico Dragonetti, an Italian classical bassist, blew fire as a bassist in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Rodriguez demonstrates great virtuosity as he scampers across the strings and neck.

The ensemble of strings plays impeccably on this CD. There is a lustiness to the overall sound that is most refreshing and stimulating, enhanced by the excellent recording and production values on this CD. The rhythm section drives along marvelously, led by Rodriguez's exquisite bass playing, but never overburdens the delicacies of the strings. Pianist Matt Kanelos comps and solos ("Caribbean Fantasy/Mambo") with the class that permeates this CD. Manuel Alejandro Carro's percussion pushes and throbs both in the ensemble and solo.

Moments in Life is an excellent CD by outstanding musicians, possessing many fine musical attributes and moments—and it's fun.

Track Listing: America the Beautiful; Caribbean Fantasy; Moments in Life; Caribbean Fantasy/Mambo Outtake; Dragonetti Waltz #3 Live.

Personnel: Victor Costanzi, Roland Satterwhite: violins; Ralph Farris: viola; Jose Rodriguez: double bass; Matt Kanelos: piano; Manuel Alejandro Carro: percussion.

Title: Moments In Life | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Self Produced

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