Jazz CD Reviews

Pete Rodriguez – El Alquimista (The Alchemist) Conde Music

A major talent with stately playing, writing and arranging skills.

Published on December 1, 2008

Pete Rodriguez – El Alquimista (The Alchemist) Conde Music

Pete Rodriguez – El Alquimista (The Alchemist) Conde Music (www.petestrumpet.com), 56:02 2008 ****1/2:

(Pete Rodriguez, trumpet ; David Sanchez, tenor sax ; Luis Perdomo, piano/Fender Rhodes ; Henry Cole, drums ; Ricardo Rodriguez, bass ;  Roberto Quintero, congas)

There’s always an infallible way to decide if a record is a strong one with solid compositions and distinguished playing.  It’s when one mentally declares a track to be his favorite, only to have it repeatedly matched or surpassed by the next tune. This feeling occurs throughout this wonderful release.  The sleeve notes indicate that Pete Rodriguez had put down his horn, only to pick it up again through the inspiration of his late father.  This is so fortunate as he is a major talent with stately playing, writing and arranging skills.  There is not one track that is even remotely pedestrian here.  “El Alquimista” is a testament to versatility and variety.  A major accomplishment with only a somewhat discreet refection of the Latin-flavored style that one might expect.  The numbers trade nicely between acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes, with congas only entering after the five- part suite opening the disc.  Oddly, the drummer and bassist get almost no solo space, but they are both superb with nice percussive accents and shadings while the bass provides authoritative underpinning and drive.  

“Jive State Suite” opens with short drum rolls before the sax and trumpet take off on fine solos based around a repetitive bass/piano figure.  Track two does introduce a Latin style utilizing the Fender Rhodes with well played sax and trumpet.  The acoustic piano returns for the slow, waltzy third track.  Cut four picks things up again in a post bop vein with imaginative trumpet and sax supplemented by magnificent drums and bass (both recorded very well).  The final suite track slows to mid tempo with Fender Rhodes, excellent unison playing and solid soloing.

Track six is a 1:54 conga piece for nice variety.  But “Scorpion” brings back the hard bop drive with acoustic piano and what is probably Sanchez’s best solo on the disc.  Rodriguez follows with what I consider his second best on this record.  Each soloist starts off slower and speed their statements up during the course to flying and swinging finishes.  Great stuff played very  tightly.  The next track utilizes the Fender Rhodes again, slowing things back down with conga accompaniment.  It includes what I think is Rodriguez’s best solo – pure mastery.  The slower tempo continues on track nine with marvelous group interaction.  Things pick up again with the conga-introduced final track with relatively brief soloing.

So what we have here is a consistently rewarding group effort tackling some first rate compositions by Mr. Rodriguez.  Each and every tune stands firmly on its own.  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 reveals all that is so noble in jazz.  On top of everything else, it is extremely well recorded.  Highly recommended for any 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.

TrackList:  Jive State Suite ( Who Do I Trust, Not Good Enough, Reflection, The Truth Will Always Surface, My Patience), Por Si Ias Moscas Roberto, Scorpion, El Indio, Shamibala, El Alquimista

-  Birney K. Brown




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