Photo: Courtesy of Julius Rodriguez
Press Play At Home: Julius Rodriguez Leads A Sprightly Jam Session With His "Blues At The Barn" Performance
Pianist Julius Rodriguez conveys the ambiance of a jazz club — from the comfort of home — with this fast-paced performance of "Blues At The Barn" in this episode of Press Play at Home.
Long before he released his full-length debut album, Let Sound Tell All, in June 2022, New York City-based pianist and multi-instrumentalist Julius Rodriguez was already a hot commodity in the jazz community.
For jazz aficionados, his upbringing is the stuff of modern-day legend: When he was 11 years old, Rodriguez's dad was already driving him from their home in White Plains into the city so that he could play at jam sessions at the West Village jazz club Smalls. Despite being half (or even one-third) the age of his fellow performers, he left a major impression on the crowd, – honing an already well established style that, years later, would earn him acceptance into Julliard. He studied there for over a year, but dropped out to launch his performing career by going on tour with A$AP Rocky.
In this episode of Press Play at Home, Rodriguez' early influences of jamming in small jazz clubs are on full display. His sprightly performance of "Blues At The Barn" evokes a night out in an intimate NYC club, even though the performance was filmed at home in the middle of the day. A drummer and bass player form a classic jazz trio with Rodriguez, who handles the lively main melody on his Yamaha upright piano.
With an impressive resume as a musician at the age of 23, Rodriguez is now introducing himself as an artist in his own right with Let Sound Tell All. "Blues At The Barn" is the first on that nine-track collection, serving as an expertly executed nod to his jazz jam roots.
But Rodriguez isn't tied to classic jazz trio convention in his new album. On the contrary, songs like "Where Grace Abounds" bring gospel influence into the music, and offer narratives that — while still primarily instrumental — are more inspired by the artist's personal history and feelings than they are by established jazz traditions.
Another track, "In Heaven," actually features vocals — courtesy of fellow-NYC-based jazz act Samara Joy — and elaborates further on the gospel background that Rodriguez picked up in church, where he earned a substantial component of his early musical education.
As he rises to jazz fame, Rodriguez is demonstrating a lively, inspired talent within the genre's conventions while also infusing his own personal musical identity and history into the music. Press play above to watch the pianist perform one of Let Sound Tell All's more upbeat tracks, and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more episodes of Press Play at Home.
Press Play At Home: Watch Dodie Perform A Morning-After Version Of "Four Tequilas Down"
In the latest episode of Press Play At Home, singer/songwriter dodie conjures a bleary last call in a hushed performance of "Four Tequilas Down"
"Four Tequilas Down" is as much a song as it is a memory—a half-remembered one. "Did you make your eyes blur?/So that in the dark, I'd look like her?" dodie, the song's writer and performer, asks. To almost anyone who's engaged in a buzzed rebound, that detail alone should elicit a wince of recognition.
Such is dodie's beyond-her-years mastery of her craft: Over a simple, spare chord progression, she can use an economy of words to twist the knife. "So just hold me like you mean it," dodie sings at the song's end. "We'll pretend because we need it."
In the latest episode of Press Play At Home, watch dodie stretch her songwriting muscles while conjuring a chemically altered Saturday night—and the Sunday morning full of regrets, too.
Check out dodie's hushed-yet-intense performance of "Four Tequilas Down" above and click here to enjoy more episodes of Press Play At Home.
Press Play At Home: Francisca Valenzuela Performs Her Courageous Feminist Paean "La Fortaleza"
The outspoken Chilean singer/songwriter Francisca Valenzuela sings of womanhood and will to power
For Francisca Valenzuela, feminism isn't a radical notion, but a self-evident truth. The daughter of two renowned Chilean scientists, she's published muscular, experiential poetry (like her 2000 book, Defenseless Waters, which she published in her early teens) and founded Ruidosa, a festival, platform and community that elevates female voices.
In this episode of Press Play At Home, Valenzuela sings "La Fortaleza," which contains her worldview in microcosm. "Everything that has happened has led me to today," she sings in Spanish. "I look ahead to the horizon and I bury the guilt and leave/I pack a suitcase, take a deep breath and don't look back/Setting sun, rising sun will accompany me."
Check out Francisca Valenzuela's riveting performance of "La Fortaleza" above, and watch other episodes of Press Play At Home.
Aaron Lee Tasjan
Press Play At Home: Aaron Lee Tasjan's Playful Performance Of "Computer Of Love"
"Some advanced technology is eating through my brain," Tasjan laments at the start of the lively folk-rock song
In the latest episode of Press Play At Home, Nashville-based singer/songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan offers a playful yet piercing take on technological dependency in his performance of "Computer of Love."
"Some advanced technology is eating through my brain," Tasjan laments at the start of the lively folk-rock song. Watch his full performance below.
Featured on his forthcoming, genre-bending album, Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!, out Feb. 5, 2021, the song references the disconnection caused by technology and social media and the emotional barriers they create within and between people.
Chika Drops Stripped-Down Version Of "Balencies" For Press Play
The Alabama rapper gives an intimate performance of her song "Balencies" from her major label debut EP 'Industry Games'
Chika is having a breakout year, no matter how you look at it. Born Jane Chika Oranika in Montgomery, Ala., the first-generation Nigerian-American rapper was named to XXL Magazine's 2020 Freshman Class. And it's easy to see why:
The self-described "professional truth-teller" with "a pen that's tactical," Chika shines in the latest edition of Press Play At Home, delivering an intimate version of "Balencies" from her major label debut EP Industry Games.
"The time that went into 'Industry Games,' was a year of my life, last year specifically," she recently told The Recording Academy. "I think that I fleshed out a lot more about myself with this project. You get more of my thought process, and the way my brain actually works––I get to share how crazy and hectic it gets in my brain sometimes. [Laughs.] You hear me versus my ego on it, and what that sounds like for me to be this soft-spoken person, but having a bigger ego, and having to defend certain words."
"Balencies," produced by Lido, also features production elements chosen by her puppy, Vision, who gets a nice shoutout in one of her verses. Chika's soulful, poetic lyricism shows her poetry slam roots and the influence of her southern upbringing in the church, which had a strong musical influence on her style.
Enjoy Chika's very personal performance of "Balencies" and stay tuned for more outstanding original music from GRAMMY.com's Press Play series.