In the eight months since she moved to New York City from Miami, Venezuelan singer-songwriter Maria Alejandra Rodriguez has achieved more than many artists do in years trying their luck in the Big Apple.
With her strong, sultry voice and classic, throwback style, Rodriguez has been bringing a slew of songs from the Latin American repertoire of jazz, bolero, cha cha cha and bossa nova to jazz and world music venues all over town.
On Thursday, Feb. 22, she’ll be at B.B. King’s Blues Club’s Lucille Grill (237 W. 42nd St.) at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. On Saturday, Feb. 24, she performs at Club Bonafide, (212 E. 52nd St.) at 6 p.m.
“There are singers who don’t know their own essence, so they sing pop and have to compete with American singers,” says Rodriguez, who plays the four-stringed cuatro and learned the basics of Venezuelan folklore from her grand-uncle, noted composer Enrique Hidalgo.
“That’s why I’m betting on my own essence, the Venezuelan song — that romantic song that is closer to that jazz of the ’50’s,” she adds.
“Most Americans see us Latinas as that sexy stereotype, and when I sing jazz and swing I play that part a bit, especially when I sing classics like ‘Bésame Mucho’ or ‘Quizás, Quizás, Quizás’ or the Mexican boleros from the ’50’s. I fit in very well with that world, and also because my look is very retro,” she says.
But Rodriguez’s ultimate goal is to move beyond boleros and jazz standards and make a name for herself with the songs she composes to sing with her cuatro, such as “Notas de Amor” or “Se Fue Aquel Amor,” which fuse jazz with Venezuelan merengue and form the core of her live repertoire.
“My goal is to promote the jazz standard with merengue venezolano,” she says. “It’s not necessarily a catchy rhythm at first, but it becomes one when I do it.”
For more VIVA articles and the latest on Latino lifestyle, entertainment, sports, health, fashion, business, travel and community news, click here.