Conventional wisdom might suggest that there can be no Spanish music—especially that, which derives from traditional Flamenco sounds—without the lead voice being a Spanish guitar. But then Me Quito El Sombrero definitely breaks that mould. It is a record fronted by Enrique Rodriguez, a fine horn player, who leads a moveable feast of musicians in an ensemble named after the diminutive of his own name, Enriquito. This is not an experiment, as that would have entailed a hypothesis, which would have to be proved by force of musical theory; instead the music on this album seems to be that which seems to have been fermenting in a magnificent, old cask, like rare wine. Once uncorked, it fills the air around with a bouquet that is so deliciously heady that those in the room have become inebriated with its aroma, flavour, colour and so on, of this sinewy oh-so-masculine music. This result has to do with many factors, but none as forthright and memorable as the horn playing of Enrique Rodriguez.
Mr. Rodriguez plays principally flugelhorn. This is a horn somewhat better suited to Spanish music and also to the horn man’s philosophy. Although mindful that he “sings” in an unmistakably male voice, this is laced with a certain softness that bends and twists like the body of a torero. Mr. Rodriguez plays in short lines that curve in graceful arcs, carving the air with a sizzle and bop that is born of music that truly swings in a brooding Spanish mode. There is no race to outrun a bull as if he were in Iruñea; rather his music is more like the sporty dalliances with a bull in Andalusia, perhaps. His phrases are stately and muscular as a matador, played with a flourish as if he were manipulating his embouchure through the air like a capote in the arena of deathly risk. As beautifully as these phrases are born of his taut lips around the mouthpiece and as transient as they are, they die with a flourish in a sort of sunset of notes that drop in an ocean of sound. Enrique Rodriguez is a sublime technician. His tone on the flugelhorn is decidedly bronzed and polished to a fine matte finish on the flugelhorn. Still it has a particular radiance lurking under the surface, as if reflecting the sun on a cloudy day. The glimmer is more pronounced when Mr. Rodriguez plays trumpet—as on “¡Ya Está Bien!” and “Sé Que Lo Nuestro”.
Flamenco sketches abound in Enrique Rodriguez’s music. He seems to have been brought up on a sterling diet of De Falla and Rodrigo as much as he has on De Lucia and Habichuela; but more than anything else Mr. Rodriguez’s music belies an undying love of Camarón de la Isla. In fact, the ghost of the latter not only whooshes through the verses and choruses of “A Camarón,” but wafts in and out of “¡Ya Está Bien!” and “¡Dale Katumba!” and even “Querido Tribunal,” despite the swagger of its Brasilian polyrhythms. Throughout the music, Mr. Rodriguez’s music is aided and abetted by a wonderful cohort of stellar musicians. The bassist, Carles Benavent is absolutely memorable on “Querido Tribunal” and Jorge Pardo makes a lasting impression in his husky imitation of the human voice on “Me Quito El Sombrero”. The voices of Juan Debel and Sandra Carrasco; of David “El Rubio”; of Anita Kuruba; El Momo and Marce Cortes echo with both the lonesome melancholia of Moorish modes as well as the duende of the south of Spain. Their vocal gymnastics are some of the highest points on the album.
It does not take long to warm to the singular voice of Enrique Rodriguez and Me Quito El Sombrero, but it sure takes an age to get over its warmth and beauty and the songs that echo in the interior landscape of the mind long after the record stops spinning.
Track Listing: ¡Ya Está Bien!; Me Quito El Sombrero; Mixtolobo; Sé Que Lo Nuestro; Eres Como La Candela; Querido Tribunal; Parece Fácil; ¡Dale Katumba!; A Mis Amigos; A Camarón.
Personnel: Rodrigo Díaz “El Niño”: drums (1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9); Sergio Martínez: percussion (1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9); Juan Peña “El Chispa”: percussion (3, 5); Israel Katumba: percussion (8), handclaps (8); Diego Ain: Brasilian percussion (6); Alex Luis: handclaps (1 – 4), Ali de la Tota: handclaps (1, 2, 4, 6); Juan Diego: Spanish guitar (3, 5), handclaps (3); José Almarcha: Spanish guitar (1, 2, 6); Oscar Lago: Spanish guitar (8); Julián Pavón: electric guitar (1, 9); Carlos Leal: electric guitar (2); Julián Olivares: tres (1, 9); Joao Oliveira: guitarra samba y solo (6); Jorge Gomez: acoustic guitar (3); Manuel Sanz: electric bass (1, 2); Juanlu “El Canijo”: electric bass (4); Yago Saloro: electric bass (9); Carlas Benavent: electric bass (6); Isidoro Rodriguez: contrabass (7); Cristian de Moret: piano (10); Juan Debel: voice (2); Sandra Carrasco: voice (2); David “El Rubio”: voice (4); Anita Kuruba: voice (4); El Momo: voice (5); Marce Cortes: voice (5); África Bibang: chorus (9); El Chiqui: chorus (9); Jorge Pardo: soprano saxophone (2); Antonio Serrano: harmonica (7); Enrique Rodríguez: trumpet (1, 4), flugelhorn (2 – 10), Spanish guitar (9); chorus (9).
Label: Youkali Music | Release date: February 2012