Flippin' For Flatjacks


I don't remember which product first made famous the slogan, "So advanced, it's simple." But, I have heard the perfect embodiment of its concept -- by master drummer and percussionist Willie Rodriguez, whose performance on Flatjacks (Milestone, 2003), part of Concord's Digital Only catalog, is so brilliant that you barely notice it.

One of precious few available titles led by this Latin rhythm dynamo, Rodriguez so articulately wields his drum kit and percussion on Flatjacks that you feel more than hear their subtle yet sure rhythms among the music of guitarist Barry Galbraith, Seldon Powell (on various saxophones, flute, and clarinet) and bassist George Duvivier. Never substituting mere volume for intensity, he's the glue that holds together their moan through Clark Terry's "One Foot In The Gutter" blues, and interplay in Duvivier's brilliant little rhythmic gem "Flatjacks (Just A Minor Bass-A-Nova)."

Listen simultaneously to his cymbals, snare, and percussion on "Brasiliera" -- or just try to. "Seafood Wally," another Rodriguez original, digs into a bass, guitar and percussion groove as sharp and tasty as gourmet cocktail sauce. (Don't you somehow just know that there's a cool story behind a title like "Seafood Wally?")

The breadth of Rodriguez's work as a sideman (as both percussionist and pianist) is enormous, and includes several titles by Manny Oquendo & Libre, Ray Barretto's Carnaval (Fantasy, 1993), and King Curtis' party throw-down Night Train (Prestige, '95), plus the compilations The Riverside Records Story (Riverside, '97) and Ritmo Afro Cubano (Fantasy, '99).