Julius Rodriguez doesn’t want to play the trite parlor game, “But is it jazz?” The 24-year-old keyboardist/drummer named his debut album Let Sound Tell All, because when its ambitious array of styles come at you like a mosaic more than a melting pot, definitions are moot. Sure, Rodriguez and the peers he picks to populate each song revel in the strut of technique and technology. And the three songs he adds on this “deluxe edition” of the record originally released last summer lean further into that wizardry. But his artistry is fundamentally imbued with the heft of tradition and a defining character of soulfulness.
His seamless segue from live to studio on the trio number “Blues in the Barn” is a neat sleight of hand, but the thrill comes from the way his acoustic piano phrases spiral and snake with the creative gusto of Bud Powell. On the duet “Two Way Street,” Rodriguez keeps his snare drum at a steady simmer while tenor Morgan Guerin comes forth in gusts à la Joshua Redman—but both instruments occasionally get funneled through a synthesizer, morphing on and off from human to superhero, like in a Marvel movie. Then, for good measure, the duet is completed with Rodriguez on piano and Guerin on electric bass.
Two of the three songs added to the deluxe edition—“Chemical X” and “Starmaker”—are studio playthings, with samples (an air raid on the former, an ambulance on the latter) yielding to galactic dreamy interludes and plenty of natty percussion as Rodriguez satisfies his jones for beats. The other tune, opener “Dora’s Lullaby,” is peaceably set to a three-note piano vamp. All are worth hearing, but not grievous omissions from the original summer release.