“…I believe that in order to achieve your goals, you have to follow your dreams. I believe that you have to create new opportunities and learn from them.” Rodriguez
“…A pianist so intense, so beautiful and so emotive you never, ever want the music to stop…amazing improvisational skills and beautiful artistic soul.” – Savvant Music
JK: What were the biggest influence in your early days in Cuba?
AR: To be honest, my family was my biggest influence. My father is a famous singer and composer from Cuba, so I grew up listening to a lot of his music. His style was very much influenced by Cuba as well as other global artists, so I was inspired by jazz, improvisation, folk, and so much more. It was a very important time in my life, and my family was super supportive in helping me to make the decision to become a musician. They have always been some of the most important influencers in who I am, and at the same time, my music.
JK: Once you decided to leave Cuba, and take up residence in the US, how did this impact on your playing?
AR: It had a huge impact. My latest album, Tocororo, pretty much sums it all up.The Tocororo is the national bird of Cuba, and if caged, the bird dies of sadness, reflecting not only the desire for freedom, but the necessity of it. Just as the Tocororo needs room to fly, my music needed the platform and opportunity to be heard by more people than would otherwise have been touched if I stayed in Cuba. Because of its many restrictions, Cuba was my cage and it didn’t allow me to spread my wings and do what I love on a larger scale. So this album is a personification of the people of Cuba as well as a representation of freedom, travel and cross-pollination of cultures. The thing that really appeals to me is the fact that we all just happen to be born in different countries and from different cultures but we are all coming from the same place; human beings are all connected in some way or another so I reflect that in my music. My collaborations are my way of fighting for unity. I’m open to learning from cultures and anything in life, so I love to bring everything together to create an outward expression of unity. It’s all about learning from different people and cultures.
JK: I read the story about your journey from Mexico to the US and that you were able to convince the border guards that you had an offer from Jones and that they put you in a cab. Is that a reflection of your persuasiveness and tenacity? How does this influence you musically?
AR: Yes, coming here was very risky and adventurous for me. I had no family in the U.S. and knew very little about the culture or language. As I mentioned earlier, I was culturally isolated for many years in Cuba, so making the decision to leave everything I knew was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done and took a lot of courage. Once I made the decision to come to the U.S. and ask for political asylum, I didn’t have a choice to go back. But again, I’ve always been that way with my music…I believe that in order to achieve your goals, you have to follow your dreams. I believe that you have to create new opportunities and learn from them.
JK: For those who are new to your music, what can they expect to hear? (I know this question is a little simplistic, so apologies as I can hear so much complexity and influences in your playing, but it would be great to have them in your words)
AR: They can expect to hear the music of my roots. When I play, I feel like I’m adding up all the musical experiences I’ve had in my life into one performance! It’s very global. I incorporate what I’ve learned from all of my past teachers and trips across the world. Music is a way to express my life and the people I’ve met along the way. I get inspired from sounds…that includes talking, animals, wind…anything really. I believe sound is music, and I love to expand on that idea through my compositions.
JK: What musical plans do you have for 2017?
AR: Many! I’m working on releasing a new album that I recorded with a new trio as well as a few other projects with artists I admire. I’ve also been writing for symphony orchestras for years now and will continue to do that. There’s more to come, but I have to keep some things a surprise!