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Alfredo Rodriguez: Tocororo

The tocororo, Cuba’s national bird, is a brightly plumed songbird that, according to legend, dies of sadness when caged. The political symbolism is obvious: Alfredo Rodriguez, a Cuban expatriate, emigrated to the U.S. in 2009; as he puts it on his website, “Cuba was my cage.” But this album is not a jeremiad or a manifesto; the overall feel is of life-affirming celebration. Along with co-producer Quincy Jones, Rodriguez creates an aural landscape that redeems longing and sorrow with uplift, militant in its refusal to succumb to bitterness or despair.

The opening track, Compay Segundo’s “Chan Chan,” is illustrative: Laced with trickster-like wit (juxtaposed rhythms, gaily colored textures), it’s also infused with forward-thrusting drive and darkened by deep sonorities, all over the course of a little more than two minutes, exemplifying the mix of improvisational play and disciplined rigor that characterizes this music.

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