There are times when there's the urge to put on some solo piano music, turn down the lights and experience the intimacy that no other instrument can so perfectly create. And while the pensive Portraits that Bob Rodriguez paints on this solo effort are done up in somber tones there is an immeasurable beauty to these dusky renderings. Recorded almost 15 years ago, Rodriguez impresses with both harmonic and melodic mastery. But it is the ways in which these two elements are blended and contrasted on these originals and standards that are most memorable.
Rodriguez draws his power, not from rhythmical fireworks or dynamic extremes, but from a refined and unhurried use of touch, tension, phrasing and line, as heard on his rendition of Bill Evans' "Waltz for Debby," wherein the melody is immediately recognizable but the setting is changednot dramatically, but with a subtlety that allows for the dance to be more thoughtfully experienced. Likewise, Kern/Hammerstein's "All the Things You Are" is gracefully reconstructed, albeit rather dolefully, in a way that broadens the scope of the original while Monk's "'Round Midnight" is darkly dressed in flowing classical lines. Rodriguez works in a fairly narrow range within which he can create a good deal of tension and release that provides continuity.
The originals are thought-provoking in a similar vein with a combination of harmonics and delicate melodies both strikingly beautiful and hauntingly ethereal. Such is the case on the appropriately hypnotic "Ostinato On A" and gracefully put-together "Trials." The closer, "No Return," is a notable exception and its herky-jerky rhythms make it the odd tune out. Rodriguez constructs these pieces from the vantage point of a consummate classicist and, to use a baseball analogy, throws a very heavy ball.
Track Listing: To Frederico; Waltz for Debby; Trials; Spring Is Here; All the Things You Are; Ostinato On 'A'; 'Round Midnight; August 1st; No Return.