By Jane Cornwell for Jazzwise
Famed for his attacking, take-no-prisoners playing style, Cuban-born pianist and composer Alfredo Rodriguez has a back story that has become the stuff of legend: the kid who, without constant access to a piano, practiced on scales he’d painted on the family dinner table; who, aged 19, represented Cuba in the International Solo Piano Competition at the 2016 Montreux Jazz Festival, just happening to entertain a crowd that included Quincy Jones, who was so bowled over he encouraged his permanent relocation from embargo-ed Cuba to America. Grammy-nominated, the veteran of an NPR Tiny Desk concert, the recipient of critical praise including comparisons to early Bill Evans and Art Tatum, Rodriguez now sounds distinctively like himself.
Coral Way, his sixth solo studio album, the follow up to 2019’s Duologue with Cuban conguero Pedrito Martinez, is another fine showcase for his inventiveness. Framing his fast- fingered bursts of improv and considered, subtle tone modulations are musicians on drums, horns and guitars. Hipster du jour Cimafunk lends his growly tenor to ‘El Llamado’, a layered groove excursion; multidisciplinary vocalist Alana Sinkëy appears twice. But it’s Miami and her multi-genre melting pot – Latin pop, timba, salsa, bachata, tango, reggaeton, bolero – that is championed here; it’s to Rodriguez’s credit that Coral Way (the name of his street) never sounds too busy. There’s space to breathe, and get around.