In 2009, jazz pianist Alfredo Rodriguez showed up in Laredo, Texas, with only a suitcase, some sheet music and one aim: to collaborate with Quincy Jones. A Cuban seeking amnesty in the U.S., Rodriguez ended up arrested by Mexican border officials. He says they questioned him for hours and demanded money.
"I didn't have any money — I had another kind of paper, which was my music. They were not really interested in that kind of paper," Rodriguez says. "[But] after speaking for hours with them, they understood my situation, and they let me go through the U.S. border."
Rodriguez first crossed paths with Quincy Jones in 2006, as one of 12 jazz pianists selected to play at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
"I had the opportunity that day to play one song for him, and after that, I was really fortunate: Quincy told me that he wanted to do something together with me; that he liked my music," Rodriguez says. "So that moment kind of completely changed my life, because I knew that in order to work with Mr. Jones, that I had to come here to the United States."
Here, Rodriguez speaks with NPR's Guy Raz about working with Jones to make his debut album, Sounds of Space.