Jazzercise
Guitar World|September 2021
RODRIGO Y GABRIELA DIVE HEAD FIRST INTO UNCHARTED WATERS ON THEIR DAZZLING NEW EP
Joshua M. Miller

RODRIGO Y GABRIELA don’t consider themselves jazz heads — or even jazz guitarists. However, the guitar duo can’t think of a time when the genre didn’t influence them.

“I love listening to it,” Rodrigo says. “I have a few friends [who are] serious jazz players, and they recommend bands. I own a couple of restaurants and I love jazz being played in the background.”

During the past two decades, Rodrigo y Gabriela have seemingly run the gauntlet of musical styles, from flamenco to heavy metal. But they’ve recently taken their love for jazz to the next level, with the release of the aptly named Jazz EP. It features covers of three songs that have stuck in their heads of late, opening with a spirited rendition of Kamasi Washington’s “Street Fighter Mas.” They became fans after hearing the saxophonist’s 2018 album, Heaven and Earth.

“We decided to work on that song while we were in Chicago having dinner at these great vegan restaurants on Michigan Avenue,” Rodrigo says. “Suddenly that Kamasi track came on in, and we found ourselves really grooving with the song… I said, ‘We should record this one’ — but we didn’t know we were going to put out a jazz EP at the time. We just wanted to record it.”

They enjoyed the experience so much that they decided to expand the project, adding a cover of Snarky Puppy’s “Lingus” to the mix. After becoming a Snarky Puppy fan in 2019, Rodrigo initially decided on a whim to cover the song on his own as a bit of a joke. Finding the song to be fairly accessible — he admits that jazz sometimes overwhelms him because of its complexity — he brought it to Gabriela, who shared his enthusiasm for the song. To round out the EP, they selected Astor Piazzolla’s “Oblivion.” Their version features contributions from flamenco-guitar legend Vicente Amigo. “‘Oblivion’ isn’t really a jazz piece, but I thought the solo was at some point,” Rodrigo says.

Despite not being jazz players, they wanted to put their signature on songs they loved while respecting and honoring the structure and essence of the original versions.

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