Catch the release party for, Party Like A King, the new album from The Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet, tonight at Zinc Bar.
It’s no wonder that The Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet is the standard-bearer in contemporary Afro-Peruvian Jazz. With their deft blend of American Jazz harmony and coastal Peruvian rhythms, the group creates music that is equal parts familiar and refreshing. Bandleader and trumpeter Gabriel Alegria is a master of color and attitude, performing with a sense of style and panache uncommon of the contemporary generation of jazzers. He is also very obviously a wise bandleader, surrounding himself with a wide array of gifted instrumentalists brimming with talent and personality, such as guitarist Yuri Jaurez and sax-player Laura Andrea Leguía. But the magic of The Afro-Peruvian Sextet’s music really happens in the interplay between the melodic and percussive elements of the band. While they are harmonically rooted in the American Jazz tradition, the rhythmic identity of the group is derived from the music of Peru’s coastal communities, an historically under-sold export of the country’s musical tradition. This brings a drier, more angular style to the Sextet’s sound. Polyrhythms from percussionist Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón’s cajon and quijada play against John Benitez’s muscular, asymmetrical bass lines and lay a jagged but undeniably danceable foundation for Alegria and Company’s beautiful melodies. And that’s just the musical aspect of the band.
From all accounts, it seems that the truly special thing about the Afro-Peruvian Sextet is the experience of seeing and being with the group. The band was embedded within the 2009 edition of Tour Perú, an immersive cultural tour of the sights, sounds, tastes, and history of Peru. The Sextet taught master classes in each member’s specific craft, presented the rich and diverse musical communities of Peru, and taught traditional Peruvian dances to the participants of the tour. One New York couple who participated in Tour Perú was so inspired by the group that they opened the Tutuma Social Club, a venue in midtown Manhattan dedicated to the Afro-Peruvian Jazz that the Sextet introduced them to. The club has become the band’s home away from home, as illustrated by the many performance videos shot at the club and available on the bands website. Furthermore, wherever the group tours, they crowd-source locals to promote their concerts, sell merchandise at events, and hangout with the band before and after performances. It’s no wonder that people are so often moved to become involved with this band- their stage presence is lively and inviting, their music brims with life and effervescence, and their sound could move even the least inclined to dance (in fact, percussionist Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón is the three-time national Peruvian Zapateo dancing champion!). In the day and age of social-media marketing and online fan interaction, it’s refreshing to see a band that not only takes advantage of these modern-age conveniences with skill and ingenuity (see the “Huevito Tracker”), but also executes the principles of social-marketing in the real world.
Catch the Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet tonight at Zinc Bar, where they take the stage to celebrate the release of their brand new album, Party Like A King. The gig kicks off a U.S. East Coast and Canadian tour, the dates of which you can find at their website, http://gabrielalegria.com.