Rodrigo y Gabriela, “The Jazz EP”

Rodrigo y Gabriela
The Jazz EP
ATO
7/10

With their forthcoming record, The Jazz EP, Grammy-winning, virtuosic Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela have created a sonic stage play in three acts. Recreating covers for a trio of songs by three unique groups, the two six-string players have composed a coherent story through the EP’s combination of tunes. If you listen carefully, you may learn something about socio-political dynamics and find a way to embrace diversity for the sake of harmony. 

Rodrigo y Gabriela’s Jazz EP, the duo’s first release since 2020’s Mettavolution Live, begins with the eight-and-a-half-minute track “Lingus,” which was originally written by the improvisational Texan band Snarky Puppy. As “Lingus” begins, even if you didn’t know what you were listening to, you’d be able to tell it’s Rodrigo y Gabriela, assuming you have even the slightest prior familiarity. The duo’s sound is bouncy and proficient—athletic, almost. 

As “Lingus” commences, you get the impression that you’re overhearing dialogue. All of a sudden, you’re in the middle of a back-and-forth, like two birds chirping, or two Tarantino gangsters plotting their next move in an otherwise vacant coffee shop. But the rapid conversation evolves—or devolves—into an argument, a rumble of bright, staccato sound that bleeds into a cacophonous gang vocal and then into an electric lead guitar. It’s like a scream aimed at the moon. 

“Oblivion,” originally written by the late Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla, is more meditative, observant. It’s as if we’ve left the spat in the song prior and we’re walking alone. We’ve escaped and now we’re on a journey from that uproarious argument, heading now through plains, the desert, mountains, and forests. But what will we find? What is at the end of this laborious traveling? 

Our answer? A little town where we can rest before our energy returns and we’re ready to clap in unison, dance, and sing for our supper! The EP’s final song, “Street Fighter Mas,” comes in. But this song, originally composed by the masterful musician Kamasi Washington, finds us again in the middle of something dire. As we’ve found our new place to stay, there’s trouble. Strangers don’t always take too kindly to other strangers. 

Now, we’re in one more battle. We circle our combatant. But maybe, just maybe, as the town breathes all around us, a light bulb finds our brain. In a flash, we realize that violence isn’t the route to peace. In the heat of battle, we realize cooler heads better prevail. Hate is love’s twin, after all. So, let us embrace and not perform in vain. The new EP ends in howling harmony. The work could have ravaged, but blind rage is no help. Instead, it says, let’s revel in that which we’ve created.

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