Globally acclaimed artist, Alfredo Rodríguez, has not only captivated audiences worldwide with his exceptional mastery of diverse genres and disciplines, but his personal story adds an equally captivating dimension to his music.
Picture the vibrant street of Coral Way in Miami, where the essence and title of Rodríguez’s upcoming album (set for an August 18th, 2023 release) reside. This album represents a significant chapter in his artistic journey, reflecting his current worldview as an artist. As Rodríguez himself states, “I play what I live, and Coral Way is my new life. It is the name of the street on which, for the past 3 years, I have been composing this album, and now I’m excited that people from all over the world will finally get to hear it in an expansive way, with a full live band.” On Coral Way, listeners can expect to hear the Rodríguez they’ve known and loved for years, but with a new twist. The album embodies the collective sound of Miami, blending Latin pop, timba, salsa, bachata, tango, reggaeton, and bolero. It’s a musical fusion that encompasses the diverse Latin community while celebrating individuality and fostering unity. The album calls upon Rodríguez’s roots just as much as his newly-learned experiences, representing a new phase of life marked by his latest move from Los Angeles to Miami; the birth of his baby girl; and finally reuniting in the same city as his family, who now all live in Miami, following his departure from Cuba.
In his new home, Rodríguez took note of the limited cross-pollination and few collaborations that existed between mainstream Latin music and Latin jazz. Coral Way, which features guest vocalists Cimafunk and Alana Sinkëy, serves as the connective tissue between these worlds—an artistic statement for the diverse Latin community to be seen, be heard, and take pride in their history, while creating community through individuality. Moving to Miami was another risky move for Rodríguez because it meant starting over in a new city, and to make matters more challenging, the COVID-19 pandemic struck shortly after his relocation. Despite being alone and unable to collaborate with other musicians, he composed the entire album by himself over the course of three years, envisioning a sound that would embody a fusion of cultures and convey a message of unity during a very divided time. Even in isolation, he never lost sight of the audience he wanted to reach.
Rodríguez notes, “The track [“Fidju di Lua” feat. Alana Sinkëy] is the essence of the multicultural blend that I want to share with everyone on Coral Way. It mixes sounds of reggaeton and folk with Alana Sinkëy’s stellar vocals in Portuguese and Creole. There isn’t one music style you can point to that defines this track, but that is actually the purpose.” And “‘El Llamado’ feat. Cimafunk is a mix of Cuban sounds and funk. That is why I wanted such a heavy-hitter like Cimafunk on the track, since he is making waves for Cuba right now. I want people, when they hear this song, to know that this is the new face of Alfredo Rodríguez. I want them standing up, dancing, and going wild when they hear this one. Especially at the live shows. Conga, rumba, and cha-cha-chá are all Cuban styles of music that have been around forever and now we are melding it with funk and pop.” Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, Rodríguez’s passion for music burned brightly despite the numerous restrictions imposed by his country. At a tender age, he faced discouragement from his first teacher, who dismissed him as devoid of talent. Undeterred, Rodríguez’s love for the piano persisted, even in the absence of an instrument at home. He resorted to painting piano keys on his grandparent’s dinner table to practice his scales—a testament to his determination and resourcefulness.
His musical journey took an unexpected turn when he stumbled upon Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert, a forgotten CD left by previous tenants at his uncle’s new apartment. Jarrett’s improvisational style opened Rodríguez’s eyes to the possibility of creating music beyond the confines of prescribed notes. This newfound inspiration led him to represent Cuba at the Montreux Jazz Festival, where he impressed Quincy Jones, one of the most legendary figures in the industry. Jones saw the immense talent in Rodríguez and extended an invitation to work together in the U.S. However, pursuing this opportunity meant leaving his family behind and embarking on a journey that would require relinquishing his Cuban citizenship. The road to success was not without its challenges. Upon making the leap to the U.S. and landing in Laredo, Texas, Rodríguez faced arrest and detention due to an agreement between Cuba and Mexico regarding Cuban immigrants in Mexican-U.S. border states. In a moment of improvisation, reminiscent of his piano playing, Rodríguez shared his story with a detainment officer, explaining his meeting with Quincy Jones and the promise of a better life in pursuit of his music. Moved by his words, the officer released him, enabling him to reach the U.S. border.
Since then, Rodríguez has achieved remarkable milestones. He has graced prestigious stages worldwide and earned a Grammy® nomination for his track “Guantanamera” from the album The Invasion Parade. Additionally, he became the first non-Chinese artist to collaborate on the English version of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo theme song, working alongside esteemed musicians such as Tan Dun, Siedah Garrett, and Quincy Jones. Beyond his accomplishments, Rodríguez’s ability to “play stories” on the keys allows him to connect with his listeners on a deeply personal level. His albums, including Invasion Parade, Tocororo, and Duologue, reflect his memories of Cuba, his experiences as an immigrant, and his journey of self-discovery through music. These albums showcase collaborations with an array of talented artists, from Esperanza Spalding to Richard Bona and Ibeyi, each adding their unique musical perspective to Rodríguez’s narratives.
As Rodríguez embarks on an international tour to share his music and message, he continues to demonstrate resilience and the power of cross-cultural connection. Through viral Instagram videos, he showcases his Cuban Timba style, infusing well-known compositions with his unique musical flair. Alfredo Rodríguez’s journey, from overcoming adversity in Havana to becoming a globally acclaimed artist, is a testament to his unwavering passion, talent, and the transformative power of music. Coral Way serves as the next chapter in his musical evolution—a celebration of his roots, a testament to his growth, and an invitation to a diverse audience to experience the vibrant tapestry of his music and storytelling.
Alfredo Rodriguez & Richard Bona
Alfredo Rodriguez and Richard Bona first became aware of one another’s talent through their shared mentor, Quincy Jones. After years of friendship, the duo went into the studio to work together on Rodriguez’s album Tocororo, which was produced by Quincy Jones. On the album, they released two songs together, Raíces (Roots) and Ay, Mamá Inés that showcase how their unique musical backgrounds can cohesively come together to produce inspiring sounds.
The duo can now be seen together on the Grammy®-winning Netflix documentary QUINCY. They are back in the studio together creating new music that they will tour around the world in 2021.