En El Aire (On the Air), the U.S. debut of bassist Alain Pérez, opens with a dramatic and forward-looking flourish. The title track, a modern-day Weather Report-meets-Los Muñequitos de Matanzas romp, simultaneously pays homage to musical and personal roots while looking to the future. In the process, it announces the arrival of a bold new jazz talent from Cuba. Pérez first encountered such classic Cuban styles as punto guajiro and guaracha through his father and grandfather. Two solo outings in a set otherwise dominated by sextet and septet settings-“Sabor de Mi Rumba” and “A Mi Abuelo Tata”-show how deeply the experience influenced him. Then, working with such powerful musicians as Chucho Valdés (both in Irakere and in one of the Valdés’ quartets) and Paco de Lucia, Pérez learned the value of innovation. Witness his reinvention of Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee,” which begins as a march, shifts through swift bop and Latin gears, then settles into a spacious midtempo showcase for a smart Jaco-esque solo.
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