It is somewhat difficult to form a definitive opinion about an artist with an EP. There is also simply not enough there for the musicianship of the artist to emerge from it. Despite all of this Zane Rodulfo’s Pathways seduces you into its glittering web from almost the first song on this very short recording. Everything about this suggests that this is music by a mature artist, and that Rodulfo is also an old soul, a renaissance man in fact. And while it is true that with the rise of independent productions such as this one we are beginning to discover much more musical talent that lives among us, music and musicians as good as Zane Rodulfo are most certainly the exception rather than the rule.
Music scholarship today fosters craftsmanship in the art of music. It teaches a prospect to write because it teaches theory of harmony. But what the conservatoire can never do is put music in the initiate. That either comes from the enigmatic, almost indecipherable knot of genetic tissue hidden in the brain and in the heart as well as in that most mysterious and mystical of being human: the soul. You feel this is the music of Zane Rodulfo almost as soon as you begin to hear it. Anyone who has read the work of the great Nigerian poet and novelist Wole Soyinka will have read his poem ‘Abiku’ which describes the phenomenon – as does Rodulfo’s song – of ‘that which is predestined to death’ as in the death of a child before puberty. It is a Yoruba belief and it is most poignantly described by Rodulfo’s song. Zane Rodulfo’s dark and foreboding drumming is pitted against the gleaming textures of Dayna Stephens saxophone as the battle for the child’s soul takes place.
The other significant piece is ‘Trismegistus’. This music is profound as well. It comes from the Greek belief that ancient prophecy of Divine intervention came from paganism long before the prophets of the Old Testament. This is both a stunning piece of writing and of performance as well. Brightness of attack marks the harmonies in this piece. There is a sense here of the story of Hermes Trismegistus that urgently needs retelling as both melody and rhythms project the elation of the salvation message. Performances match the lofty nature of the song and are subtly modulated by Rodulfo’s direction as the rest of the ensemble spin a wonderfully fluid, mellifluous texture, tenderly symbolising the acts of indulgence provided by Trismegistus.
It is in these two songs that a holistic judgement of Rodulfo may be made. And this is it: in the composer and drummer we have not simply a ‘talent deserving of wider recognition’ but a musician who has, in his scholarship, connected the dots between civilisations to put on display an immensely sophisticated artistry that is so completely anomalous in recent music. It bears mention that through all of this scholarship and loftiness it is also possible to enjoy the danceable rhythmic beauty of this music. Rodulfo and his bassist Luques Curtis have everything to do with this. The rest of the musicians in the ensemble are no slouches either.