On El Conde Negro Pete Rodríguez seems bask in the burnished glow of his horn as he stretches and relaxes his way through ten beautifully wrought pieces for quintet. It is easy to be glib about such work. It is a definitive work, much more so than any of his other music. It is a work that is a clear sign of erudition and mystique that comes from maturation as well as being granted entry into a musical world of many secrets, one which can only be earned after much trepidation. Still there is also youthful buoyancy in this record. Mr. Rodríguez’s phrasing, particularly in the slow movements of these, rather than the purely cerebral achievements prodigy testing out his new-found skills.
The music – and it would be silly to single out a track; even two – drives the composer’s enthralling musical ideas with the kind of conviction that makes it difficult to turn off this disc without listening to it from beginning to end. Pete Rodríguez, guided by the marvelous arrangements by Luis Perdomo and the steadying hand of Ricky Rodríguez, Rudy Royston and Roberto Quintero, turns in strong performances incorporating dynamic, tempo and expressive changes that characterise his unique style of playing; something that has been wrought by years of learning on the street so to speak and also finely tuned skills and virtuosity that simply came from God.
This music is recorded with customary clarity, too, which adds an extra dimension to Pete Rodríguez’s performance, particularly in the last two charts. In more muscular passages of the title track where the trumpeter uses subject matter in repeatedly different scenarios and in the spontaneity of many contrasting idioms. Everything this ensemble has to throw at these pieces shows them to their best advantage – fleet-footed blowing and tongue-in-the-groove intonation and ensemble, and a sense of momentum that always drives the music in the right direction. This is, indeed, the definitive Pete Rodríguez.
Track List – Soy La Ley; Stolen Changes; Catalina La O; Gravity; Convergencia; Ten Fé; Sombra Que Pasó; Perdomo’s Blues; Guaguanco De Amor; El Conde Negro.
Personnel – Pete Rodríguez: trumpet and vocals; Luis Perdomo: piano and Rhodes; Ricky Rodríguez: bass; Rudy Royston: drums; Roberto Quintero: percussion.
Released – 2015
Label – Destiny Records
Runtime – 1:08:49