Listeners will notice some similarities between the Rodriguez Brothers and the Fort Apache Band in the way jazz and Latin roots are blended, although this group’s debut recording shows considerably less connection to the hard bop of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. The music on Conversations also places greater emphasis on a certain thoughtful mellowness and has less overt polyrhythmic fire.
Trumpeter-flugelhornist Michael is probably somewhat more widely known than his brother, pianist Robert, at least from a recording standpoint. The former’s brass stylings tend toward a crisp and precise edge not unlike Wynton Marsalis, but without the posturing of the more famed trumpeter. Robert’s piano work shows plenty of classical training mixed with some montuno flavorings and links to jazz players such as Cedar Walton, Keith Jarrett and McCoy Tyner. Rounding out the quintet are Carlos Henriquez and Ricardo Rodriguez (apparently not related to the co-leaders), who share the bass chores, and drummer Antonio Sanchez, who does a very nice job of keeping the rhythms moving along. Tenor saxophonist David Sanchez joins the proceedings as a guest on two of the CD’s nine tracks (“Rude Awakening” and “Midnight Excursion”) and his work is a major plus.
The brothers have divided the compositional responsibilities, with Michael’s three efforts being somewhat more jazz-oriented, while Robert’s five tunes tend toward a more formal direction. Outstanding tracks, in addition to the two with tenorist Sanchez, are Robert’s “Guayaquil” and Michael’s title track. The album’s closing effort is a nicely rethought version of “El Manicero” (“The Peanut Vendor”).