Nicholas Rodriguez

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This artist was among the first wave of Cuban immigrants who became heavily involved in American jazz. A specialty throughout his career was working as a "second" or backup pianist in various big-name…
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This artist was among the first wave of Cuban immigrants who became heavily involved in American jazz. A specialty throughout his career was working as a "second" or backup pianist in various big-name outfits. He both toured and recorded with Jelly Roll Morton in this capacity in the late '20s and early '30s, showing up in some credits under the name of Goodwin Rodriques. He also picked up the nickname "Rod" early on in the jazz scene, sometimes manipulated by vowel-switchers into "Red" -- maybe because there are so many musicians with this nickname, maybe because he hailed from Havana.

In the '60s this pianist was still known to play the substitute game, often grabbing the piano bench from Billy Kyle in the steadily toiling combo of Louis Armstrong. Other classic jazz bandleading greats that placed Rodriguez in their rhythm sections included Benny Carter in 1933 and Don Redman in both 1938 and 1940. Among the pianist's Latin jazz connections were the San Domingans, an ensemble based out of New York City, and the talented Alberto Socarras, who held down a steady gig at a casino. In the mid-'40s Rodriguez was on many USO tours abroad, usually accompanying the vocalist Frances Brooks. The pianist was known for backing elderly trumpet statesman in the '50s and '60s -- among them the previously mentioned Satchmo, Doc Cheatham, and Johnny Coles.