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RODRIGUEZ BROTHERS @ Geoff Gibbs Theatre gets 8/10

Rodriguez Brothers @ Geoff Gibbs Theatre
w/ WAAPA Students
Thursday, April 12, 2018


On Thursday the Rodriguez Brothers kicked off the first of three nights of special performances at the Geoff Gibbs Theatre at WAAPA, Mt Lawley. The New York born and Miami raised duo have made a name for themselves internationally working with some of the biggest names in jazz like Roy Haynes, Harry Connick Jr. and Quincy Jones since they began composing and performing professionally in 2002. It was already an exciting prospect to see the Grammy nominated brothers performing live in Perth, but what made the occasion even more enticing was the opportunity to see them share the stage with some of WAAPA’s finest emerging musicians and collaboratively bring a colourful selection of original and latin jazz classics to life.

The brothers took to the stage with Robert Rodriguez stationing himself behind a marble grand piano while Michael Rodriguez stood at the front behind the microphone with the trumpet. There was a rotating roster of WAAPA students that accompanied the brothers throughout the evening and they began with a seven piece brass section and four percussionists for Robert’s own Cuban inspired composition from their 2007 debut, Conversations. The pair exchanged passages of the songs to take the spotlight, each relishing the moments to demonstrate complex time signatures and scales. You could feel the decades of elite music education and training was behind everything they did but without losing the elements of fun and freedom in their playing style.

Another lifted from Conversations was Michael’s Rowdy Rod which featured a slickly performed guitar piece from one of our own locals. This jazz tradition of giving each instrumentalist an opportunity to show their wares throughout the song was a great way for students to get their own special moment. A particularly impressive example was in a song that paid tribute to the Rodriguez’s mother’s Ecuadorian heritage, in which a young clarinet player traded off with Michael at the front of the stage with an extended solo.

The rhythm section steadied the ensemble throughout the set with different formations lining up with the drums and Samba flavoured congas playing off each other with playful polyrhythms. The bass player switched between an electric and double bass as it suited the songs and propelled them forward with a bouncy low end that was rich with flair and consideration. Probably the most captivating moment of the set was when he played out a song using harmonics on the double bass creating a sound that was as haunting as it was silky smooth.

The Rodriguez Brothers took a little bit of the pace out of the songs and welcomed a three piece string section and a vocalist whose smoky voice took the performance to new heights. Michael introduced some Latin love songs that were arranged for a string trio by jazz legend Louis Armstrong.

Following was the tender ‘bolero’ Tu Mi Delirio by Cuban composer Cesar Portillo de la Luz from their album Impromptu. The first set then closed with the big band song La Familia, in which Michael Rodriguez stood in line with the students in the brass section as the trumpets, trombones and saxophones took turns to play out their pieces while the rest of the band and the room applauded throughout the song.

After an intermission the audience were greeted not by the Rodriguez Brothers but by an ensemble made up completely of WAAPA students playing a samba track with maracas and congas. A male quartet took centre stage with a thrilling falsetto repertoire before being joined by ten girls for a resounding choral display. The girls largely assumed a lower octave than the guys which was a rare and surprising dynamic. The group next payed homage to Duke Ellington before the dazzling Canto a Elegua with just the girls singing, allowing them to really show off their breathtaking vibrato, harmonies and range.

The Rodriguez Brothers then gave us a nice cross section of their discography playing tracks from their first album followed by those from their latest album Impromptu such as La GuarachaEl Manisero (The Peanut Vendor) was probably the finest moment of the night with the delicate bass stealing the show. For the finale the entire group of musicians and vocalists from across the night shared the stage in what was a glorious conclusion greeted by rapturous applause.

While many Perth music fans might feel more at home enjoying the latest contemporary sounds at pubs or festivals, there is definitely a whole different world of incredibly talented young musicians and artists that you might have to see a different kind of show like this to encounter. The Rodriguez Brothers treated us to a masterclass of Latin jazz musicianship but the way they incorporated emerging student talent was nothing short of a triumph. Witnessing the full scope of the Rodriguez Brothers’ sonic imagination come to life was impressive and everyone should keep an eye out for any more shows like this coming to WAAPA this year.


Photos by Stephen Heath

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