Since the release of their 2008 debut, Nuevo Mundo, trumpeter-composer Gabriel Alegría and his Afro-Peruvian Sextet have been blazing a new musical path as they develop and popularize Afro-Peruvian jazz in the United States, Alegría’s native Peru, and beyond. The group’s stunning new CD, Ciudad de Los Reyes (City of Kings), released on February 12 by Alegría’s Saponegro Records, represents a culmination of their efforts to establish Afro-Peruvian jazz as a genre unto itself.
“We want the music world to start to really hear and feel Afro-Peruvian jazz music as what it is: a unique and separate brand of Latin jazz that warrants consideration and placement alongside Afro-Cuban and Brazilian jazz,” says Alegría.
The Afro-Peruvian Sextet divides its time between performing in the United States and Perú. Alegría, Laura Andrea Leguía, Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón (the Sextet’s hand percussionist and dancer), guitarist Yuri Juárez, and drummer Hugo Alcázar were all born and raised in Perú. Bassist John Benitez was born in Puerto Rico and has long been one of the most in-demand jazz musicians in New York City. When Alcázar-who incorporates a cajón into his trap drum kit and, according to Alegría, “singlehandedly created the whole language for the drums in this style”-is unable to travel to the U.S. due to family obligations, North Carolina-born drummer Shirazette Tinnin takes his place in the band.
All 13 selections on Ciudad de los Reyes, with the exception of Henry Mancini’s “Moon River,” were composed by Alegría or Leguía. Dance-derived Afro-Peruvian rhythms known as festejo, landó, tondero, valse, or zamacueca-all rooted in 12/8 time-are employed throughout.