On El Conde Negro, Rodriguez reaffirms his prowess as composer, improviser and bandleader. His imaginatively reworked versions of classic Nuyorican hits by his dad include a lilting, dancing version of Soy La Ley, on which Rodriguez supplies both understated vocals and moodily spiraling, soulful trumpet. He elevates Catalina La O with a dark, neoromantic majesty fueled by Perdomo’s rippling phrases, and hazy cloudbanks of trumpet. On Sombras Que Paso, he switches out the original’s noirish bolero tinges for a moody, suspenseful rhythmic tension that never quite resolves. One of the album’s most electric moments is Convergencia, a moody, enigmatic, atmospheric bolero ballad. And his vocals imbue his take of Guaguanco De Amor with a tenderness and sensuality absent in the original.
Rodriguez’s original compositions include the balletesque Stolen Changes, with its coy shifts between straight-up swing and edgy postbop; Gravity, which pairs Rodriguez’s sober midrange lines with Perdomo’s rapidfire spirals; Ten Fe, propelled by Ricky Rodribuez’s misterioso, kinetically pulsing, slinky bsss and Perdomo’s stern block chords; Perdomo’s Blues, an animatedly circling showcase for piano-drum interplay; and the album’s epic title track, which stunningly contrasts brightly bubbling swing and scampering Afro-latinisms with a hauntingly stark, ominously stairstepping piano melody that closes the album with an unexpectedly elegaic intensity.
This new album is Rodriguez’s second on Destiny Records, established by University of North Texas alumni Michael Shields, Cameron Mizell and George Shalda, the latter of whom is responsible for the impeccable recording.
1. Soy La Ley 6. Ten Fe
2. Stolen Changes 7. Sombras Que Paso
3. Catalina La O 8. Perdomo’s Blues
4. Gravity 9. Guaguanco De Amor
5. Convergencia 10. El Conde Negro
Original Release Date: May 19, 2015
Label: Destiny Records
Copyright: 2015 Destiny Records
Total Length: 1:08:49
Pete Rodriguez isn’t a purist. He knows his salsa, as one would expect of the offspring of famed salsa vocal icon Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez, and he knows his jazz. But this trumpeter-vocalist sees no need to draw strong separation between the two. In creating El Conde Negro, Rodriguez mines Nuyorican musical veins and jazz lodes, ultimately mixing his finds together to create a form of music that’s loyal to both camps yet highly original and completely mutable.