El Alquimista – The Alchemist
The volcanic opening track of Pete Rodríguez’s third album as a leader barely hints at what’s to come on this alluring showcase of the young trumpeter and composer’s broad range of talents. Drummer Henry Cole’s thunderous introduction on “Who Do I Trust,” the first of a five-movement work intriguingly titled “Jive State Suite,” sets the scene for a hypnotic ostinato by bassist Ricardo Rodríguez and pianist Luis Perdomo. Saxophonist David Sánchez is next, adding feathery trills. When the leader finally enters, it’s not with a showy splash but in an ever-ascending unison line with Sánchez’s tenor sax that frames the tune’s Moorish-accented excursion into free-jazz realms.
It’s clear from the beginning of El Alquimista – The Alchemist that Rodríguez wants to spread the wealth and take advantage of having so many exceptional improvisational voices in his company. When his horn does take command, it’s instantly clear why so many followers hear in his playing the warmth, technical prowess, intuitive sense and other qualities associated with legendary trumpet names such as Brown, Byrd and Hubbard.
On “Not Good Enough,” Perdomo’s sunny comping on Fender Rhodes buoys bop-rooted solo explorations by both Sánchez and the leader. The introspective piano lines on “Reflection” perfectly set the mood for warm-blooded solos by the two horn men. Although Spanish surnames dominate the roster of musicians, the set doesn’t have an overtly “Latin” feel, with the exception of a short conga solo by Roberto Quintero. Most of the time, the session’s stylistic compass points straight to hard bop, with a detour along the way for ballads with light funk trimmings.
Rodríguez’s father was none other than famed ’70s salsa vocalist par excellence Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez. Obviously, alchemy runs in the family.
- Mark Holston