Biography

Born in San José, Costa Rica, Rodrigo was exposed to music from a very early age. His grandfather had been a cellist and his great-uncle a violinist, as well as one of the best-known songwriters in that nation’s history. Rodrigo’s father played the acoustic bass and the violin, and he made sure that music was played constantly in the Sáenz household, from Beethoven to Big Bands, Duke Ellington to Dizzy Gillespie, Mendelssohn to Miles, and including a lot of Dixieland Jazz (more about this later). Young Rodrigo started studying the violin at the age of seven, but he fell in love with the trumpet after watching “From Here to Eternity” and seeing Montgomery Clift’s character (Prew) play taps for his buddy “Maggio” (Frank Sinatra). He got a hold of a trumpet, took some lessons, and started playing with “garage” bands around his hometown.

Then came his “other” love affair with the upright bass (read: How I “accidentally” learned to play the bass,” under “Stories” in this website).

As a member of “El Conjunto Show de Paco Navarrete,” Rodrigo traveled to the United States, playing concerts in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New Orleans. It was during that tour that he made the decision to relocate to the United States, specifically “The Big Easy.” He did so with Costa Rican pianist Pibe Hine, with whom he played in many of the clubs in that city.

When they parted company, Rodrigo went on the road with a piano trio. The drummer in that group was his brother Ricardo. After traveling extensively throughout the United States, he returned to New Orleans to settle down and get some formal music training. He joined the Ronnie DuPont Quartet on bass, while taking courses at Loyola University College of Music during the day. One of the members of that group was the great trumpet player Warren Luening, who later relocated to the west coast and became a studio legend in L.A. During that time, Al Hirt (who had been a hero of  Rodrigo’s since he first heard him) was looking for a bass player. Al and Warren were good friends, and Warren recommended Rodrigo for the job and he got it. Can you say star struck?! Ellis Marsalis was the pianist in Al’s band, and Mr. Marsalis, who not only is a great jazz pianist but also a very gifted teacher, became a great influence in Rodrigo’s life and musical growth. He met Ellis’ two oldest  children, Branford and Wynton when they were both very young, and who years later became the powerhouses they are today.

Al Hirt, besides being one of the greatest trumpet players who ever put his chops to a mouthpiece, and having one of the sweetest, prettiest and fattest trumpet sounds in the history of that instrument, was also a consummate Dixieland Jazz musician. It paid off for Rodrigo to have “listened, and to have learned” all those Dixieland songs his dad had played at their home back in the day. He felt right at home playing that great style of music, the “Roots of Jazz,” and was able to get “right into the groove” of the Al Hirt Sextet.

Following a 2-year stint with Hirt, Rodrigo joined the Al Belletto Jazz Quartet at the Playboy Club. After spending a couple of years gigging around New Orleans, Rodrigo married Laura (née Theriot) and they relocated to Boston, where he attended Berklee. During the three years they lived in that city, trips to New York were frequent. The allure of the Big Apple was surely enticing, and they relocated upon Rodrigo’s graduation.

There have been numerous gigs of all types since Rodrigo and Laura’s arrival in New York, from live performances with various artists, to recordings with José José, Roberto Carlos, Valeria Lynch, Chico O’Farrill, Julio Gutiérrez, and many others. There have also been numerous voice overs for ShopRite, Army National Guard, Miami Subs Plus, Mike Bloomberg for Mayor of New York, American Airlines, etc. Recently, there was a participation in the world premiere of “Lake,” a play written by the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner, the late Frank D. Gilroy, with very favorable reviews.

 

Call Me!