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PETE RODRIGUEZ

The 45th Annual International Trumpet Guild Conference

6.01.21 – 6.05.21

Pete Rodriguez

Session: Methods for Practicing Major Scales Using Chromatic and Diatonic Neighbors Pedro

Trumpeter, vocalist and percussionist Pete Rodríguez carries the bloodline of Nuyorican salsa royalty as he takes the tradition of Afro-Cuban jazz to new and adventurous places. The son of renowned salsero Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez and godson of Fania Records bandleader Johnny Pacheco, the younger Rodríguez cut his teeth playing with some of the greatest names in Latin music. By age 19, he was musical director of his father’s band. Mentored by pianist Oscar Hernandez – longtime director in the groups of both “El Conde” and Ruben Blades – Rodríguez filled many roles, playing both trumpet and maracas, singing coro and giving cues to the band. As a vocalist, he appeared on Tito Puente’s Grammy-award winning Mambo Birdland album and supplied percussion on the Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project’s Grammy-winning release, Simpatico. As an instrumentalist, he’s shared the stage with legends as diverse as Celia Cruz, Eddie Palmieri, Chico O’Farrill, La India and Bebo Valdez. Now, as a bandleader, Rodríguez draws on this wealth of influences to create his own instantly recognizable, high-voltage, cross-pollinated brand of Afro-Cuban jazz.

Rodríguez’s music comes from a deeply personal place, reflecting his connections to his father and heritage, as well many diverse and seemingly unrelated influences. Rodríguez was present for the birth of hip-hop during his Bronx childhood. After moving to Puerto Rico, he focused on the rigors of classical music, performing on trumpet with the Symphony of Puerto Rico at the young age of 15. While in the United States Army, he discovered his love for jazz and made it the focus of his professional and educational life after leaving the military. The diversity of this experience echoes profoundly in both Rodríguez’s compositions as well as his playing and singing style. 

Rodriguez’ low-key but expressive vocals are marked by nuance and meticulous command of shifts in emotion and attention to a song’s storyline. His signature style on the trumpet varies from explosive, expertly articulated, colorful volleys of notes, to crystalline, minimalistic Miles Davis-like ambience, to artfully and playfully chosen clusters of postbop revelry, all anchored by a rock-solid foundation in Afro-Cuban grooves. Unlike most trumpeters, Rodriguez plays mostly in the resonant midrange of his instrument, influenced more by saxophonists than brass players – no surprise, considering the early influence of his music school classmate in Puerto Rico, David Sanchez. 

Rodriguez’s compositions draw equally on classic Nuyorican salsa, European classical music and the American jazz tradition, bringing it full circle with its origins in African rhythm. As a bandleader, he has released four critically acclaimed albums: Mind Trip (2007), El Alquimista (2008), Caminando Con Papi (2013) and the 2015 release, El Conde Negro with his longtime pianist Luis Perdomo along with bassist Ricky Rodriguez, drummer Rudy Royston and percussionist Robert Quintero. As a sideman, his credits also include Eddie Palmieri, Brian Lynch, David Sanchez, Kenny Garrett, Chucho Valdes, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Carlos ‘Patato’ Valdez, among others. 

Throughout his musical career, Rodríguez has continued a program of formal study while sharing his knowledge with future generation of jazz greats. He holds both Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in jazz from Rutgers University, and earned his Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Texas at Austin in 2007.

“[T]rumpeter/vocalist/composer Pete Rodriguez certainly brings the burn to El Conde Negro, the follow-up to his dynamic debut, Caminando con Papi…[His] music … is not only instrumentally ferocious, but texturally rich and at times, profoundly intimate. … Rodriguez creates compositions rich in musical depth, tone and beauty, as well as rhythm and melody. An equally exceptional singer, Rodriguez conveys passion and longing in every phrase, giving his music an appeal beyond genres. Rodriguez’s trumpet playing is colorful, both hot blooded and pastoral, winsome and charged. … Throughout, riches of texture and atmosphere mark every song on this exceptionally clear and cliché-free album.” – Ken Micallef, Downbeat (4 ½ stars) 

“Deep and profound music that conjures up the sound of Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard, with touches of free jazz. It’s intense…challenging material that doesn’t get in the way, by some of the heaviest musicians in New York who come from a Latin background but are more than capable of playing American jazz at the highest levels. Only a handful of people in that school…Historic stuff.” – Peter Watrous, Descarga.com

“As a teacher, it’s always gratifying to know that former students are making a contribution to their field. Such is the case with Pete Rodriguez. He possesses a full rich sound on both trumpet and flugelhorn and his technique is incredible. It is as a composer that his development is even more amazing. The melodies he writes are full of complex, quirky rhythms, making unusual dips and turns. I, for one, look forward to many more musical statements from this evolving young artist.”- Kenny Barron

“Last fall, on ‘Caminando con Papi,’ the trumpeter, percussionist and vocalist Pete Rodríguez paid brilliant homage to his father, the salsero and original Fania All-Stars member Pete (El Conde) Rodríguez, who died in 2000…Mr. Rodríguez leads an excellent band…” – Nate Chinen, The New York Times

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