Part II of II. Read Part I here.
Awarding-winning 20-year-old pianist/drummer Julius Rodriguez is no stranger to jazz stages around the world. Besides performing and composing, he’s played with many top musicians: Javon Jackson, Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Jazzmeia Horn and more. There’s no doubt he’s in tune with life and music.
From day one, was jazz in you or did you acquire it?
I acquired it. I don’t know if anyone is really born with anything, but, growing up, my parents were big jazz fans so I heard the music as a child: Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong. That’s the kind of stuff I grew up listening to at such a young age, so it kind of stuck with me.
Are you a different pianist today than when you first started expressing the music?
Oh, for sure. I know I’m young and all, but during the time I’ve been learning this music I’ve learned a lot. I’ve matured as a pianist and a musician. My musical goals are different, and the way I understand the role of the piano. Everything is more clear to me with what I should be doing and what I should be working towards, rather than just exploring, ‘cause I like the way the music sounds now; I know what I need to do to make the music sound good.
You’re walking in a garden and see someone ahead playing a piano. You sit down beside this musician to learn all you can. Who would that be?
Art Tatum. He did so many magical things with the piano. And I don’t think there are—maybe one or two—video recordings of him, so to be able to watch someone like that would be a treat.
You can speak the jazz patois; how does that language speak to you?
It’s a form of expression. I look at all my heroes I love listening to and I see they how expressed themselves and then I hear that and I think this is a way for me. I might feel similarly to the way they do, I might say something similar to what they’re saying. That’s how jazz speaks to me.
Where do you see yourself being in 10 years?
Still playing music. Hopefully I have quite enough skills to be able to do some more and hopefully I would have written some songs and done some collaborations with more artists I look up to and also upcoming artists. I hope to still be traveling, so nothing more than what I’m doing now, except I’m older.