One of the greatest and everlasting legacies of Johann Sebastian Bach is his invention of bass line melodies – especially his writing for more than one voice singing in contrapuntal lines. More especially was his exploration of bassline melody evidenced in his breathtaking Goldberg Variations. Every conservatoire-trained musician knows this and has striven to master both; some especially Cubans musicians have done so with monumental success. Mauricio J. Rodríguez is one of them – probably the best one – at subsuming his music with bassline melodies that could only have found inspiration in Bach and this is all over the repertoire on his album Luz.
Basso continuo was part of the characteristic sound of baroque music, involving a harpsichord and a violoncello or a viola de gamba and Mr Rodríguez has cleverly adapted this device to marvellous effect in his work as he keeps the bottom-half of the melody uplifted with florid architecture as his pianist Gabriel Hernández Cadenas. “Monday” is a fine example of this writing [and performance], as is Mr Rodríguez’s interpretation of Chucho Valdés’ “Claudia”.
Moreover, Mr Rodríguez has a refined sense of contrapuntal music and his arrangement of instrumentation involving piano, guitar and horns is quite breathtaking; all the more beautiful when he adds his basslines to interweave everything together as the music soars into the rarefied realm. If “Danzón No 1 – Opus 1 con chá” is a masterpiece [where the clarinet of José M. Sardiñas is exquisitely featured] of Mr Rodríguez’s writing then “Wednesday” is even better – a truly glorious work where the full splendour of this music is in evidence.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the songs written by Mr Rodríguez’s co-producer, Vicente Viloria, composer of some of the finest work on this album. “Es el amor” is typical of his fine writing. It floats on the vocals of Adriana Foster with gently ascending lines that are truly aglow. The ‘dying away’ in the song’s dénouement is beautifully handled, given the music’s aching bitter-sweetness. Miss Foster repeats her flawless vocals on “My Funny Valentine”.
Mr Rodríguez’s almost insolent virtuosity is in unequivocal evidence throughout “Claudia”. This is a special treat as his playing is almost unobtrusive – albeit reflective of his instrumental genius – throughout the rest of the repertoire. The music – indeed the entire production – is superbly crafted and often even great. The energy of the dancing character; the drawing on popular and traditional idioms [on “Luz” with its magnificent vocals by Jorge Quintano and on “Vocalize” with vocals by Big Johnny Boffa]; the unashamed yet highly inventive use of traditional harmony make for some truly memorable music. An unusual and impressive release.
Track list – 1: Casualty; 2: Monday; 3: Es el amor; 4: Tuesday; 5: Claudia; 6: Luz; 7: Wednesday; 8: Danzón No 1 – Opus 1 con chá; 9: My Funny Valentine; 10: Vocalize
Personnel – Adriana Foster: vocals [3, 9]; Jorge Quintano: vocals ; Big Johnny Boffa: vocals ; Gabriel Hernández Cadenas: piano and keyboards [1, 2, 8, 10]; Ahmed Barroso: guitar ; Zachary Bornheimer: saxophone [2, 4, 7]; Jorge Pinelo: saxophone ; José M. Sardiñas: clarinet ; Richie Viruet: trumpet ; José Pradas: violoncello ; Mauricio J. Rodríguez: six-string electric bass, fretless electric bass and contrabass [1, 2, 4 – 10]; Reiner Guerra: drums [2, 4]; Lucio Veira: drums ; Orlando “Landy” Masqueda: udú, African percussion, timbal and Cuban percussion [2, 8]; Tomasito Cruz: bàtá ; Andy Fornet: cajón 
Label – Independent
Runtime – 49:51