REVIEW – Alfredo Rodriguez LIVE at The Basement

Alfredo Rodriguez @ The Basement Sunday 12th March 2017

By Peter Smetana

I don’t know what I was expecting, possibly some of the Cuban magic of Omar Sosa who I saw at The Basement two weeks prior. Overall I was left unfulfilled. Let me explain.

Believe it or not, Cuban pianists with prodigeous technique are a dime-a-dozen in Havana. In fact I believe that pianists are one of Cuba’s chief exports. Dizzy Gillespie certainly thought so. Think Bebo and Chucho Valdez, Gonzalo R
ubalcaba, Harold Lopez-Nussa, Omar Sosa to name just a few of the current ones.

He has 3 albums out and all are with outstanding groups. Intensity and subtlety with a huge serving of Cuban folklorica and santeria (religious music). It was the absence of this aspect in last night’s performance that disappointed me.

There were two directions in which he directed his performance; European classical interpretations specifically Schubert and Beethoven and Keith Jarrett cloning for the obviously jazz songs. Whether the songs were Cuban or not they all were transformed into ‘magnum opuses’ (or is that opi?). Songs like “Quizas,”Quizas,”Quizas” or “Guantanamera” took on a complexity inappropriate of such simple, charming songs.

I wasn’t alone. The audience’s body language seemed to be willing him to play more rhythmically. Whenever he forgot himself and turned on the Cuban rhythm, the people were moving their bodies, clicking fingers and quietly singing along. This was a recital more befitting of a formal venue like The Opera House.

Taken in the context that HE presented, his arrangements of well-known Cuban songs, a few jazz classics and mostly his own compositions, the recital was an outstanding success even if it left me unfulfilled.

Marcello Maio – piano accordion (‘the warm-up act’).
I must say that I vastly preferred Marcello’s performance. His music took me to places that only creative masters can hope to do. Romance, longing, humour and a few other adjectives that I can’t think of. Most of all it was enjoyable whereas Alfredo was hard work.

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