Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Alfredo Rodríguez Trio to fill The State Theatre with Cuban-infused jazz Sept. 24  

Alfredo Rodríguez Trio, led by the Grammy-nominated Cuban-born pianist mentored by legendary music producer Quincy Jones, will kick off the Center for the Performing Arts 2015–16 jazz concerts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, in The State Theatre in downtown State College.

While studying classical piano at music conservatories in Cuba, Rodríguez performed with his father’s orchestra on television. But it was the young musician’s Montreux Jazz Festival performance in 2006 that caught the eye and ear of Jones, who made it his mission to bring the pianist to the United States.

“It knocked me on my booty, man,” Jones said of first hearing a set by Rodríguez, who some critics compare to iconic pianists such as Keith Jarrett, Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans.

Purchase advance tickets, which are $38 for an adult, $17 for a University Park student and $28 for a person 18 and younger. Tickets, payable by cash and checks only, also will be available at The State Theatre on the evening of the performance. A grant from the University Park Allocation Committee makes Penn State student prices possible.

Rodríguez fuses Latin, jazz and classical music into compositions that DownBeat magazine says make it impossible for listeners to pigeonhole him. On his 2014 release “The Invasion Parade,” he blends traditional Cuban swing and guajira (“country music”) with conga and Afro-Cuban jazz styles for a bold, layered sound. That recording also features bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding (who beat Mumford & Sons for the 2011 Best New Artist Grammy Award) and percussionist Pedrito Martinez (who has earned accolades from Wynton Marsalis, Derek Trucks, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal and others). Rodríguez’s arrangement of the Cuban classic “Guantanamera” from that album earned him a 2015 Grammy nomination.

Get to know Rodríguez’s music.

Since relocating to the United States in 2009, Rodríguez has performed at the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl; the Gilmore Keyboard Festival; the Detroit, Newport, San Francisco, Vienna, North Sea and Umbria jazz festivals; and notable jazz clubs including Ronnie Scott’s, Scullers, Yoshi’s, The Blue Note and Jazz Alley.

On his first tour to China, the pianist collaborated with Academy Award-winning Chinese composer Tan Dun (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Hero” and 2008 Beijing Olympics medal ceremonies) to create an English-language version of the song “Better City, Better Life” for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

The trio’s live performances are improvisational in nature. He balances his temperament on the keys with Henry Cole on drums and Peter Slavov on bass.

“We really engage with our audiences during our performance, so we’re also looking forward to the energy that will come as a result,” Rodriguez said.

Complimentary parking for the performance will be offered at the Eisenhower Auditorium Parking Deck, and complimentary wheelchair-accessible shuttle service will be provided between the parking deck and The Corner Room Restaurant (half a block from The State Theatre).

Artistic Viewpoints, an informal moderated discussion featuring a visiting artist or artists, takes place at The State Theatre one hour before the concert and is free for ticket holders.

Spats Café and Speakeasy sponsors the concert.