A cover-filled EP with a chance to expand their sound
Flamenco and heavy metal are two subgenres of music that seldom are seen next to each other. The movies Pirates of the Caribbean and Puss in Boots don’t seem to have much of a connection with one another. Instrumentalists and Grammy awards are rarely seen in the same place together. What comes at the intersection of these contrasts? Rodrigo y Gabriela. Rodrigo y Gabriela is a flamenco and heavy metal-influenced group known for multiple Grammy-nominated and winning albums, as well as being integral to the soundtracks for the movies mentioned before. This group represents the conflict of modern music. Talented musicians fall through the cracks for uninspired bubblegum pop singers to grow. Rodrigo y Gabriela is one such type of crack-falling artist, though their music reflects honesty and intentionality that is hard to find in a typical Grammy-winning artist. In their new project, The Jazz EP, the couple gives their take on three different songs from three different eras and genres.
Starting off the album, legendary saxophonist Kamasi Washington gets a nod in their cover of his song, “Street Fighter Mas.” Rodrigo y Gabriela take a turn away from the coffeehouse instrumentalist in them and go for synthesizers, electric guitars and even a man’s low, chanting voice at one point. It starts with the same bongo-like drums before a synthesizer takes the bass notes and an electric guitar strums loftily above it all. Again, they can bend a song at will—Kamasi Washington’s R&B/hip-hop mentality is able to shine through the Latin roots of this song and band. This song represents the most fun on the album: it features bongos, synthesizers, soft chords and a guitar solo that would not find itself out of place in a spy thriller movie. A little bit of everything comes out on this track and shows the breadth of Rodrigo y Gabriela’s talent.
Astor Piazzolla was an Argentinian composer who released a song and album entitled “Oblivion” in 1984. Both growing up in Latin households in the 1980s, it would not be a far stretch to assume Rodrigo y Gabriela were introduced to this man and his music at a young age, especially when taken into account that they cover “Oblivion” in this album. While still honoring the song, they modernize it slightly. The instrumentation and acoustics of the overall song are improved, the tempo elevated. However, this song seems to display decades of Latin music tropes ,including flourishing acoustic guitars and bass acoustic guitars guiding along the melody and multi-guitar chords.
The final song, “Lingus,” takes a softer stab at the Snarky Puppy’s rendition of the original song. Electric guitars become acoustic, horns are completely left out and a more simplistic and homely song comes into the clearing. Beginning with almost-frantic dampened chords, twangy slide guitars soon fill the spaces while a bongo-sounding beat steadies the rhythm. Now, this being an eight-minute song, it has time for rises, falls, crescendos and everything in between. Another part begins as the chords and drums fade and is replaced with dual acoustic guitars constructing what seems to be their rendition of a guitar solo. It again loops back around to the slide guitars and bongos, creating that verse/chorus relationship that everyone seems to know so well. Once this “chorus” has come and gone again, an electric guitar and bass are introduced, switching the sound from the minimalistics that were originally heard to a more modern and convoluted melody and instrumentation. A melody that might be heard on Alternative Top 50 charts, this specific “verse” is much more lively, long and electric. These qualities carry the song out to its end, with the entirety of the track functioning as a slow burn to the eventual blaze at the end of the song.
For many people, it is hard to get through an eight-minute-per-song album that is strictly instrumental. However, music doesn’t always have to make one feel happy; it doesn’t always have to make one dance; it doesn’t always even have to completely align with people’s favorite melodies. Sometimes, music can be looked at like a painting and can just be appreciated for the time it took and what it means to the subjective listener. This album features incredibly impressive musicians who have created an EP that almost no one else in the world could create. This in itself is respect-warranting. Though The Jazz EP is highly experimental and not always a project to turn on at a party or in one’s car, the instrumental and musical prowess that is shown cannot be overlooked.