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Bob Rodriguez: “Portraits”

(Art of Life AL1036-2)

MP3 Digital Downloads | About the Music | Selected Quotations

Bob Rodriguez: "Portraits"

Bob Rodriguez: piano

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To Frederico
(Listen to MP3)

Waltz for Debby
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Trials
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Spring Is Here
(Listen to MP3)

All the Things You Are
(Listen to MP3)

Ostinato On 'A'
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'Round Midnight
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August 1st
(Listen to MP3)

No Return
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MP3 Digital Downloads {top}

About the Music {top}

Following the 2008 release of the duo recording, "Ripples" (Art of Life AL1034), with guitarist Scott Sherwood, "Portraits" is Bob Rodriguez's fourth release as a leader and finds him in a solo piano setting. Bob performs his unique solo piano arrangements of Bill Evans "Waltz for Debby", Rodgers & Hart's "Spring Is Here", Kern & Hammerstein's "All the Things You Are" and Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" in addition to five of his own compositions. "Portraits" was recorded on July 16, 1994 at Ambient Studios in Stamford, Connecticut by recording engineer Nick Prout and mixed and mastered by A.T. Michael MacDonald. Bob Rodriguez's three previous releases as a leader, "Corridor", "Mist" and "Reinventions" are also available in the form of MP3 Digital Downloads from our MP3 Digital Download Store.

Critically acclaimed pianist Bob Rodriguez is one of the most distinctively imaginative musicians in contemporary Jazz today. Possessing a refined virtuoso technique, extraordinary harmonic sensibility and an incomparable approach to his instrument that melds aspects of European classical and Latin music with modern Jazz, Rodriguez's performances and recordings of his own compositions and interpretations of standard material have distinguished him as a truly original pianist with his own tale to tell.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Rodriguez began studying classical piano as a child. At 15, after hearing Teddy Wilson on the radio, he was inspired to write an original blues, revealing a nascent aptitude for composition and prompting his teacher to send him to his first Jazz instructor, Hank Kahout, an expert on Wilson and Art Tatum, who was a stride piano specialist. Next, he studied privately with Bill Gidney, a bebop pianist who had accompanied Charlie Parker. Rodriguez studied harmony formally at the Modern Music School of Cleveland with Phil Rizzo (a former Stan Kenton arranger) and twelve tone composition at Baldwin Wallace University. Later, he attended Akron University, where he spent time analyzing modern classical techniques under the tutelage of Pat Pace, who had written arrangements for Miles Davis.

Rodriguez was an active player on the Cleveland Jazz circuit throughout most of his twenties, but by the mid eighties he was weary of the local scene there and seized an opportunity to move to Houston. There he played Jazz and latin gigs with his trio, occasionally working with visiting luminaries such as Kenny Wheeler, Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Billy Hart, Muhal Richard Abrams, Joe Farrell, Pharoah Sanders and Freddie Hubbard. He was invited to teach Jazz piano at the prestigious Houston High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and in 1988 he met modern Jazz vocalist Tina Marsh, who engaged him as pianist and composer-in-residence for her forward looking fourteen piece big band, the Creative Opportunity Orchestra. Rodriguez made his first CD recording with Marsh and the Orchestra on her album "The Heaven Line". He's also recorded with singer and his trio on their co-led disc "Out Of Time".

In 1989 Rodriguez moved to the New York area to study with pianist Richie Beirach, the final step on his road to developing a personal style built on very modern harmony with an exceptionally melodic approach. He performed his music with the BMI advanced composers workshop and in 1994 recorded his first date as leader, "Mist", now available as an MP3 Digital Download from Art of Life Records. An album of rare beauty, it featured Rodriguez's own compositions as well as pieces by Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock, two of his primary influences. In 1998 he recorded a solo CD, "Reinventions" (available as an MP3 Digital Download from Art of Life Records), that includes two Chopin Preludes that he had arranged for 4 hands (with a guest pianist). Since his arrival in the Jazz capitol of the world Rodriguez has performed at the Blue Note, Birdland, Cornelia Street Cafe and Trumpets. He played solo concerts at Gracie Mansion and various venues in the tri-state area and broadcast performances on NPR in Texas, Maine and New York.

In 2005, Rodriguez released "Corridor" (available as an MP3 Digital Download from Art of Life Records), a much praised masterwork featuring bassist Mike Richmond and drummer Eliot Zigmund. More recently he's the recipient of a 2007 grant by Chamber Music America to write a piece for Tina Marsh's innovative new 10 piece ensemble aka Creative Opportunity Orchestra. This new piece will be created with support from Chamber Music America's New Work: Creation and Presentation Program, funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. In addition to his highly respected work as a performer, Rodriguez is a very much in demand clinician/instructor in the world of Jazz and classical music education.

For more information on pianist Bob Rodriguez please visit his web site at www.BobRodriguez.com.

Selected Quotations {top}

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 changed not 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.
Elliott Simon - All About Jazz

Pianist Bob Rodriguez is that rara avis, even in Jazz, a constantly interesting improviser. "When playing in a solo situation", he says, "You are committed after the first note. You are "in the music" and you just go with it." Rodriguez has a kind of inner GPS that plots his musical ventures unerringly. His new release, the solo album "Portraits", beautifully refashions the harmonics of well-known ballads and originals, including a nod to one of his favorite 19th composer-improvisers, Frederic Chopin ("Frederico"). No mere technocrat of the music, Rodriguez balances a delicacy of touch with a passionate sense of discovery. Bob Rodriguez is a musician's musician and a listener's delight.
Linda Dahl

Recorded in 1994 and released in 2009, New York area pianist Bob Rodriguez doesn't delve into an existential framework splattered with hidden meanings. Simply stated, the album title intimates the artist's personalized musical portraitures equally divided between standards and originals. The pianist communicates great depth amid soul-stirring choruses and animated right hand leads. Rodriguez is a poet via his fusion of lush themes with probing storylines, all enamored by his gentle touch and acute penchant for modulating numerous undercurrents. They're highly-emotive pieces as he wraps each motif into a distinct muse or string of expressive statements that intersect and coalesce. Rodriguez aligns grace, subtlety and warmth on the classic "Spring Is Here", where circular lower register chord voicings offer a glowing contrast to his upper register re-phrasings of the main melody. His improvisational panache is a study in alternating dynamics, often accentuated by his gentle touch and shifting pulses. And Rodriguez's "Ostinato On 'A'" is an entrancing and meticulously designed piece featuring a radiant chord-based ostinato and a memorable primary theme. He ups the tempo while throttling from highs and lows with his ascending chord clusters on "August 1st." Here, the artist conveys a multicolored panorama, which pronounces a mindset that every note is critical to the song's success. Not that Rodriguez aims his sights from a purely technical level. On the contrary, he possesses the desire and insight to mold his craft from numerous trajectories and thought-processes to complement his enviable chops. A beguiling endeavor it is.
Glenn Astarita - All About Jazz

Here's a piano man that's one of the top proponents of listening Jazz, strutting his stuff solo style taking on some formidable pieces mixed with originals. The program works. With the deceptive simplicity of cocktail Jazz leading the sonic edge, Rodriguez has a canny touch that ducks and weaves a mosaic in place that has your ears all wrapped up before you know what hit you. Tasty stuff from a hip cat you ought to know better.
Chris Spector - Midwest Record

"Portraits" is a new album by pianist Bob Rodriguez, but consists of a solo piano recording done in 1994. The album is a haunting piece of work where you get to hear what Rodriguez is capable of not only through original compositions but new interpretations of "Waltz For Debby", "Spring Is Here", "All The Things You Are", and "Round Midnight". The overall mood is somber, the kind of music that you may want to listen to alone on a Saturday night in the dark, although it may provide a bit of romance too. Whatever your taste and delight, if you are a fan of solo piano work you will enjoy this album immensely, with great engineering from Nick Prout.
John Book

Bob's "Portraits" CD release has him playing a broad range of solo piano tunes from composers as different as Rodgers & Hammerstein to Bill Evans to Monk... very tasteful and expressive playing that will capture your ears immediately, unless you're so immersed in disco phunkiness that you can't relax & listen! His rendition of Monk's "'Round Midnight" is uniquely "his" & full of surprises at every change... just loved his full-stroke left hand approach - heavy tones that blend perfectly in with the spirit of Thelonius' original composition - it's my favorite version of that tune in many years. "Spring Is Here", from Rodgers & Hammerstein, will make you bloom unless you're already a resident of zombie-land, caught up in TV commercials & other 21st Century puffery - a truly sweet sounding performance. If you love solo piano, you'll certainly agree with my declaration that it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED with superb music that will stay at the top of your "reflective" mood playlists!
Dick Metcalf, aka Rotcod Zzaj



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