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The Rodriguez Brothers: Impromptu

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The Rodriguez Brothers, trumpeter Michael and pianist Robert, are exponents of a brand of Latin jazz that incorporates multiple strains of the genre’s rhythms and textures, meshing Afro-Cuban styles with bolero, Brazilian, postbop and other varieties. Underappreciated despite stellar performances at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola and other venues, the two make another convincing showing on their fourth recording as co-leaders. They’re joined by frequent collaborators: bassist Carlos Henriquez, drummer Ludwig Afonso and percussionist Samuel Torres.

These eight tunes, originals except for one and ranging in length from 6:13 to 9:11, are impressively cohesive. They also allow for the players to take their time with extended melodies and opened-up solos, starting with Michael’s title track, built on a tumbling, driving piano-and-bass groove and a zippy, elongated melody marked by quick twists, tonal shifts and sudden falls. Michael’s trumpet solo is alternately fluid and brittle, artfully constructed of short phrases and long lines, and boosted by the rhythm section’s pushing and pulling. Robert’s piano improvisation, initially more subdued, builds in intensity before dropping out for Henriquez’s beefy but agile bass declarations.

The album is similarly interactive throughout, including on Robert’s bop burner “La Guaracha,” titled for the Cuban rhythm of the same name and capped with an incendiary back-and-forth between the siblings; Robert’s rumba-charged “Fragment”; Michael’s starting-stopping “Descargation,” inspired by lessons learned from Palmieri and boasting a barnburning solo by Henriquez; and Robert’s easy-flowing “Love Samba,” bolstered toward the end by a vocal chorus featuring all the musicians.

Michael’s “Latin Jacks,” named for the way the Rodriguez’s grandfather, Roberto, pronounced “Latin jazz,” again relies on an intriguing, hopscotching long-form head. And the brothers’ Miami-based father, drummer Roberto Rodriguez, guests on Robert’s bouncy, almost pop-inflected “Minor Things.” All in all, a striking outing from a band worthy of even wider recognition.

Originally Published