At last, Tony Rodríguez

9 minutos / Yentsy Rangel

25.05.2020 / Reviews

For several years, we have seen Tony Rodríguez in groups that mark the discourse of popular music. I heard him for the first time in a Carlos Varela concert in the Old Square of the Historic Center and I was struck by the range of piano resources that this instrumentalist houses. A little later, the meeting with his participation in the album No es el fin (2010), by Carlos Varela, would speak to me even more on his "capacity to surprise" the audience, that which must have all artistic action. In this case, his collaboration with Varela was worked from a design that, with its atmospheres and subtle resources, forms a structure that builds a set of emotional senses for the recipient. His playing technique, the arrangements, the measured and rich work of the timbre, as well as the restraint in the treatment of the harmonies and his construction of chords, make his contribution to this album stimulate and exciting.

This exquisite and detailed projection extends to spaces of popular dance music, as verified when we look at the work that Tony Rodríguez has done for several years on Havana D ’Primera's roster.

At the peak of the public preference of the Island for more than five years, the band led by Alexander Abreu is projected with a group of musicians who, from their particular stories, highlight values such as versatility, virtuosity associated with deep handling of the technique of the instrument, the concerns for the timbral exploitation, as well as the mastery of musical styles ready to be conjugated and mixed in the creations. The work developed by Tony Rodríguez is an example of all this. In songs like Energías Oscuras the influence of a song-alike-accompaniment is noticed, looking for melodic climaxes through harmonic progressions in contrasts with the design of counter edges in more subtle sections.

The tumbaos, meanwhile, Tony builds from the combination of styles that influence these rhythmic-harmonic designs. In them, as is characteristic, a rhythmic intention reigns in the sections of the montuno, from a closed structure that opens to achieve greater climax and tension, according to the discourse on the subject. As a registered trademark of the Havana D ’Primera sound, Tony resorts to the reiteration and reaffirmation of chords by various sections within the tumbaos, one of the perceptible elements in the themes and that deduces the recognition of a sound as an identity mark. This reiteration creates cumulative tensions from the harmonic-rhythmic and melodic point of view.

Another interesting point in Tony Rodríguez's recording career is the production of Pa'lante el mambo , by Diego Gutiérrez, where he builds arrangements from elements and sections of popular genres such as mambo, son and guaguancó, brought into a contemporary setting and from the prism of this singer-songwriter's compositions. The work explores another of the discourses of Cuban music: the need to build, through collective sound experiences, works that transform the imaginary conceived by a creator. In this case, it is a matter of taking a singer-songwriter to the margins that intertwine his structures with others of generic experimentation, stylistic interrelation and, in turn, of greater scope for tastes, audiences and projection spaces.

Pa’lante el mambo is a genuinely Cuban proposal, a study of our traditions and their contemporary variants through the sound of a singer-songwriter with pop rock influences like Diego Gutiérrez. As producer and arranger of this album, Tony Rodríguez achieved the recognition of the International Academy, with a nomination of this album for the Latin Grammy 2018 in the section of Fusion Music.

In our era, the order word seems to be versatility. In music, as in any other profession, artists exploit their capacities to the maximum, diversifying their functions in a production scheme that allows them to be summoned within the market. In the jazz scene, this behavior is commonplace, as they are usually musicians who develop skills in different fields such as composition, arrangement and performance.

Viendo los resultados de su carrera, en la que ha probado sus capacidades en diversas áreas —intérprete, arreglista y productor—, podemos decir que Tony Rodríguez se desempeña de manera privilegiada en cada una de estas funciones. Prueba de ello es el disco At Last, fruto de la madurez musical y de las necesidades de exponer un universo “otro”, distinto al escuchado hasta entonces. Grabado en el año 2017 bajo el sello Páfata Productions y distribuido por Abdala, el fonograma reúne una propuesta jazzística que agrupa seis temas de la autoría de Rodríguez y se adiciona una creación del saxofonista Carlos Miyares.

As it is a trend among young contemporary jazz players, it is committed to a basic format: piano, bass and drums, to the more traditional concept of jazz trio. Yandy Martínez (bass), Oliver Valdés (drums) and Tony Rodríguez (piano) are joined by Alejandro Delgado (trumpet) and Carlos Miyares (saxophone), leaving the definitive formation as a quintet.

Aesthetically At Last defends various creative spaces within Cuban jazz, taking up influences from cool jazz, academic concert music, song, in addition to the rhythmic interest of working with the piano, elements that form a synthesis of the musical experience of its creator.

Tony takes a path in which he sets out to search for sounds through harmonic exploration, whether through piano or ensemble discourse, exposing atmospheres of tension, instrumental virtuosity and rhythmic variety. The themes are very diverse from each other; opens the volume September 12 , a traditional jazz scheme where we delight in improvisations of piano, drums and trumpet, showing in each case the exposition of the so-called “own sound” that these well-known instrumentalists defend in the jazz scene.

However, then we find Just Play , with a much more aggressive scheme from the rhythmic and melodic point of view. It is the exposition of a constant game with the harmonic design that makes the resources of the interpreters shine in parallel, such as the melodic phrasing of the sax, the walking of the double bass or the beat of the drums in a first, second and third shot of listen, arriving at times to express yourself simultaneously.

Another track that particularly catches my attention is 7-24 , which exposes a lyricism in the melody that is very typical of the song, and which suggests links to themes of this genre in Cuba. Yandy Martínez on double bass, once again, demonstrates the exposition of a virtuous speech, with a delicate and exquisite phrasing through the sound of this instrument. The album is completed by the songs A lot of miles , 3.15, Disappointed message, and Keep on playing , which indiscriminately design the album's range of exploration.

At Last is located within that universe that has been created in our country for young jazz players. Young people who only share the criteria of generation due to their age range, but who, from the aesthetic point of view, go through more complex individuals within their work. Since I don't like labels, I prefer to defend the criteria of what distinguishes them as creators in the present, since this can also vary over time.

This volume prefers the simplicity seen from the very conception of the format or the projection of its themes. The absence of guests is a prove of the interest in showing what is most genuine as a letter of introduction, without temptations to dispersion in the sound universe. Hence, its greatest value is given by the solidity and sincerity as a proposal. At its core, it is about sharing with friends, a game that translates into the experiences and talent developed by its performers to expose a native creation within their extensive musical career.

At Last is a summary of the maturity of a musician who has transcended the mere exposition of instrumental virtuosity and, furthermore, has fully assimilated the elements and techniques of composition and arrangement. Tony prefers to travel in a much more complex terrain and bets on his own sound from the creation itself, on an album that does not intend to comply with any trend, box or label. It is a space of creation, exploration and search for new challenges. Ideas that we will surely hear more about, because I have a feeling that Tony Rodríguez is only trying to propose music.

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Yentsy Rangel

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