The Rodriguez Brothers, Reunited Review
Reunited in Rhythm: The Rodriguez Brothers’ Symphony of Resilience and Cultural Harmony
by Icrom Bigrad
Twenty years since their initial introduction to the jazz world, The Rodriguez Brothers (Mike and Rob Rodriguez) have graced us with the extraordinary Reunited, an effervescent celebration of their musical journey, captured in the heart of New York City’s Jazz scene. The anticipation of their reunion, after a three-year hiatus during the pandemic, offers a sense of homecoming not only for the brothers but also for jazz as a resilient art form.
The album, released on July 21, 2023, by RodBros Music, serves as an exquisite feast for the ears, nourishing the soul with sumptuous flavors and textures reminiscent of a rich culinary experience. Fusing Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and Latin folkloric traditions with contemporary jazz, the album bears witness to the Brothers’ dynamic approach and features seven original compositions, each a delectable dish with its unique seasoning. Accompanied by Ricky Rodriguez on bass, Adam Cruz on drums, and Anthony Almonte on multi-percussion, Mike and Rob perform on trumpet and piano, respectively, bringing a synergy that transcends mere collaboration. This is a banquet of brotherly love, ingenuity, and perseverance.
Tracks like “Gitmo’s Groove,” a tribute to their percussive father, are peppered with “nasty Afro-Cuban songo” beats, a family recipe passed down during jam sessions. “Guayaquil,” honoring their mother’s homeland of Ecuador, elegantly combines Colombian cumbia rhythms as if to capture their mother’s dance in melodic form. It’s a musical paella, weaving together memories, family traditions, and cultural pride. Each musician’s background and versatile ability to play Latin and straight-ahead styles creates a rich tapestry of sound, underscoring the unity in diversity that characterizes the jazz community.
“Titmo’s Groove” bursts forth with an outstanding Afro-Latin jazz feel that enchants the listener. Mike’s trumpet playing, fluid and overflowing with ideas, blends seamlessly with the ensemble, creating a symphonic dance. After leading us through a few choruses of his soul-stirring soloing, Rob joins the improvisation. Together, they exchange a series of melodies that delve deep into the heart of the Afro-Latin jazz language. It’s a joyous composition, a performance charged with vivacity. The ensemble is in sync, speaking an elegant, unified language that resonates with the traditions of jazz. The crowd certainly picked up on their energy, reacting with fervor, evidence to their appreciation of the performance.
Robert’s tribute to his mother through “Guayaquil” manifests a personal and cultural connection to Ecuador, Colombia, and Cuba, weaving together distinct rhythms into a harmonious jazz expression. Throughout the album, the ensemble displays their global rhythmic palette, and their love for world rhythms, inherited from their drummer father, showcases an embracing of global influences, making their music a confluence of cultures.
“Minor Things” continues the vibrant journey, maintaining the high energy of the Afro-Latin groove. Mike’s muted trumpet, clean and passionate, weaves the exciting melody while Rob’s solo emerges as a high point of the album. His textures, harmonic side-slipping, and melodic development throughout his improvisation are nothing short of outstanding. A catchy montuno fuels the call and response between various members of the ensemble, each performing with a passion and clarity that can only emanate from a profound understanding and a long history of performing this music with the assembled artists.
Overall, Reunited is brimming with enthusiasm and technical adeptness and showcases the skillful collaboration and cultural richness that mark the Rodriguez Brothers’ distinctive style. The compositions are alive with rhythmic intricacy and harmonic complexity, yet their essence is captured in the simple joy of the music and the connection it fosters between musicians and the audience. This energetic and joyous experience invites the reader into a world where tradition meets innovation, and music becomes a universal language.
The Rodriguez Brothers’ Reunited is an album that serves up resilience, evolution, cultural synthesis, familial bond, and musical innovation. Capturing the heartbeat of Afro-Latin jazz and its never-ending capacity for renewal and reinvention, the album offers a multifaceted view of a world where tradition meets innovation. In a time when the resilience of the human spirit echoes in every note, Reunitedis a triumphant testament to the enduring power of music and social unifying power.