By Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media
Freddy Rodriquez Sr. beloved Denver music icon and friend to everyone who ever worked with him or heard him play has died. The 89 year-old Rodriquez Sr. had been in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of St. Joseph Hospital in Denver since March 11th.
The news will bring heartbreak to all those who have known him throughout the many years he has been a staple of Denver’s Jazz & Latin Music scene. Freddy has performed with many of the titans of jazz; from Nancy Wilson, Harold Land, Ray Brown, Red Holliday, Wynton, and Branford Marsalis, Slide Hampton and dozens of others. He’s recorded with Roland Kirk, was in the reed section of the great Gerald Wilson Big Band in Los Angeles.
Rodriquez was inducted to the Denver Jazz Hall of Fame and was one of the few living Denver jazz musicians who performed during the 5-points jazz renaissance. He was honored with a Mayoral Proclamation at the 23rd
Annual Civil Rights Awards.
“I got involved in music when I was in junior high school, back in 1942,” said Rodriguez, in an interview with La Voz Bilingue in a 2015 interview. Rodriquez had been a Denver icon who had performing jazz around the city for over 35 years.
“At that time they were lending instruments to poor people. I chose the clarinet, so they lent me the clarinet and I played clarinet all during junior high school.” he said.
It wasn’t until enrolling at Denver West High School that Rodriguez would pick up the instrument that turned him into a local icon: the tenor sax.
“I went into the service in 1948, right after graduation and I played in the Army band in the Seattle area,” Rodriguez said. “We just played all over the area there and I was able to meet a lot of great jazz musicians.”
Rodriguez grew up in an era of Jazz. Though living in Denver would lend to different music styles and genres other than jazz, Rodriguez said the music of his era was what turned him on to jazz.
“I pursued jazz because that was the music of my era: the big band era,” he said. “That was the time of hit parade on radio. Like today you listen to rock and roll, well I listened to the hit parade and that was when we had people like Frank Sinatra and Perry Como, you name it.
My first love is jazz and popular music, especially music of the Tin Pan Alley, which was the music that came up in the Broadway shows back in the 30s. That’s the time of music I grew up on. That’s the kind of music I like and is probably the music you’re going to hear me play.
“I’ve been playing at El Chapultapec since January of 1980,” said Rodriguez, who going into his 39th year at the “Pec” had been the longest tenured live musician at any Denver-based club. “It has turned into a nice, little jazz club. It’s almost like it was back in the old days. It’s a good environment for jazz. There aren’t really a whole lot of places that have the reputation of El Chapultapec. It’s one of the long-lasting clubs. There are other clubs in town that have come and gone, but that one has stayed. Naturally, I like to play music, period, but it’s a great venue for me.” He said in the interview.