He’s been hailed as one of the most prominent jazz pianists of the 21st century by music legend Quincy Jones, and now, Cuban music maestro Alfredo Rodriguez is on his way to the UAE to perform as part of Abu Dhabi Festival 2016. Here, FACT talks to the artist himself about what it’s like to have all your musical dreams come true…

Hi Alfredo! Your journey into the music industry has been an inspiring one – what’s the biggest and best lesson you’ve learned along the way?

Quincy Jones has been a big part of my career and the first piece of advice he gave me was just to be myself and follow my own destiny in terms of music and every other aspect of life. We feel very connected in music so I’m just trying to learn from a person like him who has so much experience in life, music, and everything in general. It’s so important for young people to have mentors and guides to help make life better, so I just feel fortunate to be a part of Quincy Jones
productions and to be with Quincy; he is a person who I admire so much.

 

What is it about jazz music that grips you?

I got into jazz because of improv; it captured me from the beginning when I first got Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert CD from my uncle. I didn’t know anything about improv before that because I only played classical. After I heard the CD it changed my life because it opened up my eyes to a whole new world of style – I started looking for music that was rooted in improv and found other artists such as Thelonious Monk. I was excited by the fact that you could sit at the piano and play anything that comes to your mind. That’s what gripped me and still gets me about jazz and ever since then, I’ve been playing about my experiences.

 

What’s your earliest memory of playing the piano and do you remember the first song you played?

Actually, I had always wanted to be a professional drummer but then my parents enrolled me in the Havana School of Classical Music where they tested us on
musicality and the foundations of theory before we could pick an instrument. It came down to choosing between piano and violin so I chose piano – thinking I was going to change back to the drums – but I didn’t. The first memory I have of playing the piano was at the school with my very first music teacher. I most likely was playing Johann Sebastian Bach because he is one of the composers that we studied early on at the conservatory and he remains one of my favourite composers to this day.

What are you most excited about to perform in the UAE?

I’ve never been to the UAE so I’m happy to meet a new culture and be able to share my culture with the audience as well. I love learning and gaining new experiences from around the world, so I’m looking forward to the performance and being greeted with a new type of musical appreciation.

 

What can audiences expect from your performance in Abu Dhabi?

Well, drummer Michael Olivera, bassist Reinier Elizarde and I are going to be playing music from my new album, Tocororo, which was just released. We will just be ourselves and bring music from Cuba that I grew up listening to. We love performing in the moment so it’ll be a mix of what we’ve done in the past and what
is going to be completely spontaneous for this new experience.

 

Your music has connected and crossed over with different cultures – what is the message that you’re trying to convey through your talent?

We may all be different, but when we search deep within, we all come from the same place. We have more in common than we realise, and music plays such an important role in bringing that out. Unity is what we need to focus on and I just like to combine my roots with everyone else’s roots. Since coming to the U.S. I strongly believe in transculturation and I reflect that into my music because I play what I live.

 

What’s your advice for young budding pianists?

My advice is that you have to be sure that what you’re doing is a necessity for you and you love it so much and you aren’t doing it for anyone or anything else. If you do it because it’s like drinking water for you, then you know it’s for you. If that’s the case, go out and fight for it; that’s not just for music either, it applies to everything in life. It’s going to be difficult to succeed at what you are doing if you don’t love it.


 

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GO: Alfredo Rodriguez will perform at New York University Abu Dhabi Arts Centre on April 28, starting at 8pm. Visit www. abudhabifestival.ae for more information