By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
At twelve, Freddy Jr. started working weddings and parties with his father, as the piano player, and at thirteen he was sitting in at El Chapultepec -- sometimes thrown straight into the fire with visiting heavyweights such as Bobby Shew, Buddy Collette, Dianne Reeves and Branford Marsalis. He took it all in stride: "For me, being down there with Dad was like college."
But Junior is also a polymath with a restless spirit: He loves playing straightahead jazz with his father, but he also works in Latin variety bands, co-founded a funk group called Chilli Willi (catch them at the Cool River Cafe at the Denver Tech Center), and composes and plays music for services at Mile High Church. "I love jazz," he says, "but I also like Beethoven and Mozart and George Gershwin. On other gigs, I use [synthesizer] keyboards, playing a lot of strings and bells, sometimes voices or horns. I think of my music more from an orchestral point of view."
Still, Wednesday night at El Chapultepec is special, despite the notoriously out of-tune piano, the raucous crowds and the half-filled tip jar on the bandstand. It is the time when Freddy Rodriguez padre e hijo commune, when they rediscover the rhythms in the other's life and renew their own. Says Freddy Jr., "Sometimes he's my dad, and sometimes he's more like my brother, the older brother I never had, on the bandstand."
"Absolutely," says Freddy Sr. "It's something very, very special."
For us, too, gentlemen. It's something special for the listeners, too.