|HOME / BIO|
The Afro-Peruvian Sextet
“The Afro-Peruvian Sextet is writing a new chapter in the history of Latin jazz.”
The Afro-Peruvian Sextet was formed in January of 2005. Composer and trumpet player Gabriel Alegría made a long distance phone call to drummer Hugo Alcázar, his long time friend and band mate. “I have an idea and I need someone who can dance,” said Gabriel… and since that time the Afro-Peruvian Sextet has produced two albums and has performed more than 400 shows in North America and Perú. Their audiences come from all over the globe and include a legion of dedicated fans who work directly with the band on various projects including concert promotion, merchandise sales and most notably, Tour Perú, a succesful concept by which fans of the band literally join the musicians on the road in Perú.
One couple in 2008, inspired by the Tour Perú experience, built and currently operates Tutuma Social Club, a jazz club in New York City themed after the band’s brand of Afro-Peruvian jazz music. The venue has become the Sextet’s “home away from home” where the band continually nurtures their relationship with audiences each weekend, promotes CDs and merchandise and enjoys sharing food from Perú with their fans. The band has successfully developed and consolidated a thriving “scene” around its music. The Latin Jazz Network described Gabriel Alegría in this way: “Every once in awhile there comes a musician who, when playing his or her chosen instrument, seems to carry within a vital life-force that is irrepressible.” The “life-force” projected by the Sextet is often cited as the secret of the band’s popular appeal.
Amidst the Afro-Peruvian Sextet’s detailed fusion of Afro-Peruvian rhythms and jazz harmonies, lies a very authentic, “earthy” and honest interpretation. The New York Times writes "on his sharp new album, trumpeter Gabriel Alegría teases out affinities between modern jazz and the African-influenced coastal music of his native Peru.” The extremes of Afro-Peruvian folklore from the coast and the spirit of jazz music coexist in a balance that is only possible by combining the types of charismatic (and idiosyncratic!) musicians that make up the Afro-Peruvian Sextet. “Peruvian trumpeter Gabriel Alegría champions Afro-Peruvian music,” wrote Downbeat Magazine in a prominent review, “the hip asymmetrical bass line of Alegría’s El Norte is goaded by wonderful hand percussion and stickmanship on cajita from Hugo Alcázar and Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón.”
Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón, founding member of the band, is one of the most important masters and exponents of Afro-Peruvian percussion and a three-time national Peruvian zapateo dancing champion. In the Afro-Peruvian Sextet’s recordings and performances, he can be heard alternating between traditional instruments such as the cajón, the cajita and the quijada (that’s the jaw bone of an ass!). Drummer Hugo Alcázar creates a type of drumming that superimposes polyrhythm and jazz swing feel naturally, all while seated on a cajón and incorporating those sounds into the drum set’s color pallette. These significant contributions are placed in the context of melodic jazz writing by Gabriel Alegría and Laura Andrea Leguía, also the band’s tenor saxophonist. Time Out New York describes the music as “pieces full of color and drive, reflecting an immersion in the black music of Peru’s coastal regions.” The bass chair is currently occupied by 5-time grammy award winner John Benitez and the “llanto” (crying) of the acoustic guitar by Peruvian criollo guitarist Yuri Juárez, himself winner of Latin Jazz Corner’s “guitar player of the year” award. The band also boasts a talented roster of additional musicians that have played, performed and recorded with the band at different times. Everyone that comes into the Afro-Peruvian Sextet becomes an important part of the band’s musical family.
The band has even been described by many fans as “life changing”. Legendary trumpeter Bobby Shew said it best: “hanging out with these folks is a chapter in your life!”
Support for the band in their native Perú is also significant. Hundreds of dedicated “Fans & Voluntarios” sign up on each of the band’s tours to work shows, sell merchandise and participate in the band’s social outreach missions. Local media and press have followed and documented the development of the band. The country’s most important newspaper, El Comercio describes the Afro-Peruvian Sextet as “the catalyst that marks the start of Afro-Peruvian jazz music's flight to the international stage.”
The Sextet is busy working towards future projects that include our next Tour Perú, launching a Live Recording and staging a seven continent 2013 World Tour. Current performances are listed on our tour calendar. Opportunites for fan participation abound so drop the band a line or join us on Facebook or Twitter!
One of the most influential figures on the current jazz scene in Perú, Gabriel Alegria was born into an artistic family in Lima in 1970. Alegria’s grandfather Ciro was Peru’s most famous novelist and his father Alonso is Perú’s most acclaimed playwright.
The Afro-Peruvian Sextet currently tours in support of their latest release Pucusana (August 2010) which includes the singles “Taita Guaranguito” and “Pucusana” representing the Peruvian landó and festejo sounds respectively. The recording includes guest appearances by Russell Ferrante and Arturo O’Farril as well as the band’s permanent members Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón, Hugo Alcázar, Laura Andrea Leguía and Yuri Juárez. The bass chair on the album is shared between Ramon DeBruyn and John Benitez.
Alegria combines his experience playing jazz as it developed in the U.S. with a passionate interest and careful study of the black music of coastal Perú. By incorporating and exploring the common African roots found in both styles, he has developed a uniquely Afro-Peruvian jazz music concept. The rich legacy of the black music of coastal Perú can be heard in a contemporary jazz context. In all of Alegria’s work, a cross-cultural exchange between the Americas is always present, carefully defining Afro-Peruvian jazz music as the newest voice to come from Latin America.
Alegria’s 2008 release Nuevo Mundo, on Saponegro Records, soared to the top of both Jazz Week World Music charts and CMJ’s jazz charts, staying on the air for more than 6 months. The CD includes collaborations with jazz artists Tierney Sutton, Bobby Shew, Russell Ferrante and Bill Watrous as well as with the formidable native Afro-Peruvian artists Freddy “Huevito” Lobaton (Peruvian percussion – cajon, quijada, cajita), Hugo Alcazar (drums), Jocho Velazquez (acoustic guitar) and Joscha Oetz (bass). The CD, which includes six compositions by Alegria and his Afro-Peruvian jazz arrangement of the Gershwin classic “Summertime,” represents his most varied work as a trumpeter and composer to date.
Most recently Gabriel completed the groundbreaking “Tour Peru”, a new model in touring that included fans that accompanied the Afro-Peruvian Sextet throughout Peru. He has also performed concerts for the United Nations and various diplomatic missions from around the world. The Afro-Peruvian Sextet has appeared in over 400 concerts and master classes throughout North America. During the course of a career that has spanned the globe, Alegria has appeared in concert and/or on recordings with Arturo O’Farrill, Maria Schneider, Placido Domingo, Kenny Werner, Ingrid Jensen, Tierney Sutton, The Peruvian National Symphony, Bill Watrous, Russ Ferrante and Alex Acuña.
Currently Associate Director of Jazz Studies at New York University, Alegria earned a doctorate in jazz studies from the University of Southern California, a master’s degree from the City University of New York and a bachelor’s degree from Kenyon College. His knowledge of Afro-Peruvian music is the result of fieldwork and time spent at home in Perú learning from the art form’s greatest exponents.