To say that you can never know what to expect from pianist Alfredo Rodríguez would no longer be a surprising observation even if the cues are all over social media in advance of an album’s release. But The Little Dream moves an already impossibly high bar he set himself long ago impossibly higher, not long after Quincy Jones brought him Stateside from Cuba.
One of the aspects of musicality that sets Alfredo Rodríguez apart from other pianists is the fact that he can take even the simplest motifs and dramatise them to a degree unheard of before and this is what make this repertoire seem like a modern-day musical version of Alice in Wonderland complete with its own imaginarium of smiling cat, royal figures, even a Jabberwocky in the song and even the Rabbit involved in high-jinks which one can easily fancy Mr. Rodríguez to be.
Editor’s Pick · Featured Album · The Little Dream
In fact there are two qualities that permeate this repertoire which one cannot hesitate to call the finest Mr. Rodriguez has presented in performance to date. One of the more striking aspects of Mr. Rodríguez’s approach to these works is his inerrant sense of timing. There is no rush to arrival: every scintillating detail is savoured at leisure, without a trace of decadent indulgence. Lyrical passages, so often sunk by the weight of misplaced rubato here soak with earnest ardour, lending them a disarming, youthful freshness.
That said, tempos are amply pliant and the rubato, when applied (as in “Bloom”) is rich and luxuriant. The rhythmic spine of each piece always remains intact so that rhetorical thrust is never lost to detail. Furthermore, Mr. Rodríguez’s presto leggiero in fioritura passages (in “Dance like a Child”) is nothing short of perfection.
The scrupulously observed dotted semiquaver/demisemiquaver figures in “Vamos Todos a Cantar” make it beyond rhapsodic. The Héroïde élégiaque fix its wistful character and dignity on “Bésame Mucho”, and an extraordinary shapeliness characterises “Tree of Stars”. Meanwhile music feather-like pianissimo glissandos in the playfully capricious “World of Colors” are brilliantly executed, while the tremolos of “Alegría” disperse into the air like pungent incense.
Most remarkable of all is how the entire repertoire unfolds in an integral, coherent whole, rather than a series of pieces stopping and starting in a series of mini-climaxes. This well-recorded set is thoughtfully and masterfully conceived and executed not the least because of stellar company in the form of the breathtakingly brilliant Munir Hossn on bass and Michael Olivera on drums, who capture all of the magic of the music in a manner fully attuned to Alfredo Rodríguez’s vision and artistry. It all makes this a disc to die for…
Track list – 1: Dawn; 2: The Little Dream; 3: Silver Rain; 4: Bloom; 5: Dance like a Child; 6: Vamos Todos a Cantar; 7: Bésame Mucho; 8: Tree of Stars; 9: World of Colors; 10: Alegría; 11: Moonbeam; 12: De Rua Pra Rua (From Street to Street)
Personnel – Alfredo Rodríguez: piano, vocals and Fender Rhodes; Munir Hossn: guitar and electric bass; Michael Olivera: drums and percussion
Released – 2018
Label – Mack Avenue
Runtime – 51:02