Like many musicians who've come through Cuba's music conservatory, 26-year-old pianist Alfredo Rodríguez displays ferocious virtuosity on his splendid debut, Sounds of Space. Underneath all the firepower, though, lies a remarkable composer who knows how to pull back from the razzle-dazzle and play a piece that's more memorable for its melody and arrangement than for his awe-inspiring technique.
His enchanting "Fog" practically qualifies as 21st-century chamber music. Rodríguez hammers out a dark, cyclical melody that's soon shadowed by the Santa Cecila Quartet's haunting woodwind and brass arrangement. Drummer Michael Olivera and bassist Gaston Joya provide subtly pliant momentum which helps the song retain its jazz aesthetic. Soon enough, Rodríguez's solo emerges then submerges itself within the evocative arrangement, affording the composition cinematic splendor worthy of his mentor, Quincy Jones, who produced Sounds of Space.
At just shy of five minutes, "Fog" never overstays its welcome; in fact, it sounds as if it's an excerpt from a grander composition. Which is appropriate, because the song itself provides a wondrous teaser for Rodríguez's rapidly developing compositional ingenuity.