Trumpeter, vocalist and percussionist Pete Rodríguez carries the bloodline of Nuyorican salsa. The son of renowned salsero Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez and godson of Fania Records bandleader Johnny Pacheco, the younger Rodríguez revisits his father’s legacy on Caminando con Papi. His debut release for Destiny Records finds him accompanied by his Austin rhythm section of drummer Daniel Dufour and bassist Sam Pankey, with longtime friends and colleagues Luis Perdomo on piano and Robert Quintero on percussion.
The idea of saluting “El Conde” had been on Rodríguez’s mind since his father’s death in 2000, but he had been unable to move forward with the project until recently. “Our relationship went beyond father/son, we were more like brothers, as well as co-workers,” says Rodríguez, who became his father’s musical director at the age of 19. Coached by pianist Oscar Hernandez, the former director for El Conde and Ruben Blades, Rodríguez was playing trumpet, singing coro, playing maracas and giving cues to the band. He also served as his father’s travelling companion and manager when his mother was no longer able to fly. “When Papi passed away, I didn’t know what to do. I quit playing horn for three years, and I couldn’t listen to his music, especially while I was driving. It would feel like he’d be in the car with me; it was emotionally overwhelming.”
Rodríguez’s connection to his father, and the importance of his family, is obvious from the opening re-arrangement of Blades’ “Tambo,” one of his father’s signature songs. Originally an up tempo guaguancó, Rodríguez has put the lyrics at the forefront, with modern harmonies, a slower tempo, and a form stripped of the salsa signifiers of mambo and coro. “Tambo” opens with Rodríguez’s four-year-old daughter, Nayeli, paying homage to her abuelito before giving way to Rodríguez’s delicate and intimate delivery. The other vocal feature is Perdomo’s equally creative arrangement of Tite Curet’s “Cabildo.”
This contemporary sound of Latin jazz is a commonality among Rodríguez’s Puerto Rican jazz peers. Rodríguez was a high school classmate of saxophonist Davíd Sanchez at the Escuela Libre de Música in San Juan, PR, where Miguel Zenón would follow a few years later. While Rodríguez was a classical trumpet major, Sanchez was already well on his jazz trajectory and got Rodríguez into practicing the Charlie Parker Omnibook. Through practicing alongside Sanchez, saxophonists serve as a bigger influence on Rodríguez’s sound, as evidenced by the rapid-fire lines of “El Camaleón” and the introduction to “Arlene,” and Rodríguez’s penchant for the low and middle registers of his horn.
The band on Caminando con Papireflects different sets of musical relationships. Dufour and Pankey are in Rodríguez’s working band in Austin. “I like them because they’re searching within the music,” he says. Percussionist Quintero and pianist Perdomo were early friends in Caracas, Venezuela, before both of them moved to the New York area. Rodríguez’s music eschews the formulas of Nuyorican salsa for more folkloric rhythms from Quintero’s batá and percussion and the jazz drummers Rodríguez came of age listening to. “I grew up in New York listening to Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts and Ralph Peterson. I like that aggression.” Combined with the energy of the Fania All Stars and Eddie Palmieri (with whom Rodríguez performed as lead vocalist), Dufour and Quintero provide that foundational fire. As a conguero himself, conga patterns figure heavily into Rodríguez’s soloing and composition.
As the music comes from a deeply personal place, so too does its release. Caminando con Papi marks the first release on Destiny Records, formed by University of North Texas alumni Michael Shields, Cameron Mizell and George Shalda, the latter of whom is responsible for the impeccable recording. All three of the label’s founders are also musicians; with the catalyst of Rodríguez’s album, they have come together to form, in Mizell’s words, “an artist-friendly label releasing exceptional music.”
The legacy of Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez continues in his son, primarily in the quest to grow artistically. “Even the week before Papi died, he was listening to himself and to Beny Moré to perfect his craft,” Rodríguez remembers. “He always thought, ‘I can sing these tunes better.’ I think of him as the Miles Davis of Latin music.”
Trumpeter, vocalist, percussionist and composer Pete Rodriguez has played with some of the best musicians in the world, including many of Latin music’s luminaries, such as Celia Cruz, Johnny Pacheco, La India and Tito Puente, including singing on Puente’s Grammy and Latin Grammy winning album, Mambo Birdland. Pete is the son of Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez, a music legend in the Latin music world who gave “Lil’ Pete” the responsibility ofdirecting his 12 piece orchestra while also playing the trumpet and singing. While excelling in the Latin field, Pete also pursued hislove for jazz and has been fortunate to have performed with such high profile bandleaders as Eddie Palmieri, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Chico O’Farril, Carlos “Patato” Valdez, and Bebo Valdez, including performing on Eddie Palmieri and Brian Lynch’s Grammywinningalbum, Simpatico.
Pete’s latest CD, El Alquimista/The Alchemist, featuring Grammy winning saxophonist David Sanchez, as well as Luis Perdomo, Henry Cole and Ricky Rodriguez, received critical acclaim, being called “historic” and“one of the best albums” of the year:“There are simply no weaknesses whatsoever in either the writing or performance.The inspired use of instrumentation makes the production realize a high level of creativity and originality.It is an extremely well realized disc which revealsall that is so noble in jazz ... Highlyrecommendedforany fan of modern jazz and particularly to those desiring to hear stimulating new compositions played by top flight musicians with an astonishing degree of empathy for each other.Easily one of the best albums I've had the pleasure of listening to this year. A very, very impressive achievement by all involved.” (Audophile Audition[From] the first track of Pete Rodriguez”s El Alquimista(The Alchemist) [it’s] clear this is an album with a difference....By definition, an alchemist is one who practices the ancient art of converting base metals into gold, or, symbolically, one who changes a common item into something precious. Rodriguez turnscommonnotesinto a special mix of Latin, jazz and even symphonic music.” (All About Jazz)
“Here’s a ferociously swinging set by the trumpeter Pete Rodriguez. ...a blowing session on challenging material [featuring] some of the heaviest musicians in New York who come from a Latin background but are more thancapableof playing American jazz at the highest levels. Only a handful of people in that school; pick this album up before it disappears. Historicstuff.” (descarga.com
PE R F O R M E D
WITH EddiePalmieri, Bebo Valdez Nonet and AllStarBand, TitoPuente, CeliaCruz, ToshikoAkiyoshi, Brian Lynch, David Sanchez. Chico O’Farril. Carlos ‘Patato’ Valdez. IsraelCachao
Trompetista,cantante , percusionista y compositor. Hijo de Pete " El Conde" Rodríguez, una leyenda de la música en el mundo de la música latina, Peteha tocado con varios de los más importantes músicos del mundo, incluyendo muchas de las luminarias de la música latina, como Celia Cruz, Johnny Pacheco, La India y Tito Puente. Paralelo a su trabajo en el campo de la música latina, mantiene su pasiónpor el jazz y ha tenido la oportunidad de presentarse con artistas de la talla de Eddie Palmieri, ToshikoAkiyoshi, Chico O'Farril, Carlos " Patato " Valdeez, y Bebo Valdez, incluyendo la participación en la grabación ganadora de GrammySimpático de Eddie Palmieri y Brian Lynch.
La ultima grabación de Pete, El Alquimista / TheAlchemist, con David Sánchez, Luis Perdomo, Henry Cole y Ricky Rodríguez, recibió elogios de la crítica especializa, quien lo reconoce como "histórico" y "uno de los mejores discos del año”.