Alex W. Rodriguez is a writer, improviser, and trombonist. He recently completed a PhD in Ethnomusicology at UCLA, where his research focused on jazz clubs around the world and the creative improvised music communities that surround them. It was based on fieldwork research conducted in Los Angeles, California from 2012-2016, Santiago, Chile from 2015-2016, and Novosibirsk, Siberia in fall 2016.
Growing up in Portland, OR, he took up the trumpet at age 10 and switched to the euphonium two years later. His developing interest in jazz and his work with Portland-area trombonist and educator Ben Medler led him to the trombone shortly thereafter. In 2001, he was a part of Medler’s first Portland Youth Jazz Orchestra, which has grown into a pillar of the Portland jazz education community.
From July through December of 2005, Alex lived in Santiago, Chile, where he performed with jazz musicians in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. Performances included his participation in the 6th annual Trombonanza trombone festival, and gigs with Los Andes Big Band at LaPaz Festijazz and El Club de Jazz de Santiago.
Alex graduated with his BA in Music from Amherst College, the first Trombone Performance major in the College’s history. At Amherst, he also took courses in ethnomusicology with Jeffers Engelhardt, Mirjana Lausevic, and Tim Eriksen. During that time, he studied trombone with David Sporny and Tim Atherton and performed with two of Amherst’s premier party bands, The Shark Spaceship and The Funk Department. His senior recital, “The Slide Show: A Tribute to Eight Trombonists of Personal and Historical Significance” featured the works of Tommy Dorsey, Lawrence Brown, Al Grey, Jack Teagarden, Bennie Green, JJ Johnson, Kai Winding and Fred Wesley.
He later completed an MA in Jazz History and Research at Rutgers University, studying with Conrad Herwig, Lewis Porter, Henry Martin and John Howland. His MA thesis, “White and Blue: Alternate Takes on Jack Teagarden” is a four-part analysis of one of the first great jazz trombonists, Jack Teagarden. During his time at Rutgers, Alex started writing about jazz for a living, contributing to jazz.com’s Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians, as well as jazz-related coverage for The Star-Ledger, Hartford Advocate, NPR Music, and WBGO.
Alex moved to Los Angeles, California in 2011 to pursue a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at UCLA. He continued to contribute jazz coverage to NPR Music and served as the Editor in Chief for the open access academic journal Ethnomusicology Review in 2014. He also co-founded the UCLA Omni-Musicality Group with Steven Loza, and was Assistant Director for the UCLA Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Charley Harrison. After completing his fieldwork research in November 2016, he returned to his hometown of Portland, OR.
During his time in Portland, Alex completed his Ph.D. dissertation while serving as the Director of Jazz Ensembles at Reed College. He also helped to revitalize the local chapter of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, served as a Field Organizer for the campaign to elect Jo Ann Hardesty to the Portland City Council, and joined the Board of Directors for the International Society for Improvised Music. He now lives in Wellesley, MA, where he teaches African-American Music and Global Pop in the Humanities Division at Babson College.