In their high praise write up on Mauricio J. Rodriguez’s long awaited, sonically intricate yet stylistically expansive debut Luz, Bass Magazine goes so far as to say that the veteran multi-bassist (Six Strings E Bass, Fretless E Bass, Double Bass) “reinvents” Latin jazz. He is certainly exploratory and joyfully diverse, creating a spirited adventure that rolls from the smoky and elegant opener “Casualty” (featuring saxophonist Jorge Pinelo) through the exuberant, densely percussive jam blessed with the piano fire of Gabriel M. Hernandez Cardenas.
Yet using the term “reinvent” is a tall order for a debut album, even for a versatile artist who was a member of the globally traveled Fervet Opus jazz quartet, the Venezuelan string quartet Union and , the Aragua Symphony Orchestra and is composer in residence of the Miami Symphony Orchestra and The Miami International Academy of the Bass.
The title of the album – and one of its most inspirational tracks, the soaring atmospheric ballad “Luz” (featuring the sultry vocal passions of Jorge Quintero) – is Luz, however, and we can apply that concept to the idea that Rodriguez is definitely shining a light on a path towards a movement in Latin music that incorporates vocal pop and intense jazz fusion amidst the more expected exotic expressions.
Though the classical/film score flavored arrangement of Chucho Valdes’ “Claudia” offers an all at once meditative yet emotional display of his bass bravura, Rodriguez’s nature and experience as a musician leads him to create more of an ensemble piece dominated by solos by the masters he surrounds himself with – including guitarist Ahmed Barroso, saxophonist Zachary Bornheimer, clarinetist Jose M. Sardinas and vocal giants Quintero, Adrianna Foster (the soulfully operatic “Es El Amor,” the sparse, moody and sultry “My Funny Valentine”) and Big Johnny Boffa.
While there are several well-placed standards, the set is at heart a showcase for the compositional brilliance of Venezuelan composer Vicente Viloria (the project’s producer) and Rodriguez, who contributes three intense, emotionally impactful “days of the week” tunes (the bustling, high energy “Monday” and “Tuesday” and the steamy ballad “Wednesday”) and what is hands down the sexiest, most danceable romp, “Danzon No 1 Opus con Cha), a lively spin on the Cuban national dance. Luz is freewheeling by nature – and lays a delightful, spirited foundation for more Rodrigues invention (and ultimate reinvention) to come.