Ever since the formation of his now long standing sextet, Gabriel Alegría has used his well-drilled cohort – comprising saxophonist Laura Andrea Leguia, guitarist Yuri Juárez, bassist (now) Mario Cuba, drummer Hugo Alcázar and the virtually irreplaceable Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón – to channel the viscerally exciting music in a language he calls Afro-Peruvian Jazz. It would have seemed a mouthful in its early days, but today, with Diablo en Brooklyn, six recordings and numerous celebrated performances, this is an iconic band and almost anyone who now even dares fuse the languages of Afro-Peruvian music and Jazz will have to contend with the pioneering spirit of Gabriel Alegría Afro-Peruvian Sextet, an ensemble like none other in the world at large.
Editor’s Pick · Featured Album: Diablo en Brooklyn
Diablo en Brooklyn represents, in almost every musical aspect, the zenith of the career of Gabriel Alegría – in terms of composition, arrangements, instrumental virtuosity and his ability to turn the entity of his expression, his Afro-Peruvian Sextet, bolstered by the keyboard wizardry of Russell Ferrante and guitarist Jocho Velázquez, into a monumental cultural troupe. The music is based on El son de los diablos (The Dance of the Devils) a pageant that was first choreographed by African slaves to commemorate Bacchanalian pleasure before the Catholic feast day of Corpus Christi. This magical version by Gabriel Alegría, despite its relatively short length is positively operatic – even Wagnerian – in scope.
The work is broken up, by four other songs, into three parts, roughly corresponding to a kind of three-act operatic exposé and it unfolds like a masterpiece first in its (Bacchanalian) depravity and then evolves through a sort of spiritual purification into something almost (the character of) Parsifal by the end of it all into something of ascetic virtue through music of sometimes overwhelming sensuality. Everyone plays his or her part in the spectacle and although a libretto is absent the raspy trumpet and sanctified flugelhorn Gabriel Alegría plays magically off the principal ever-morphing character of Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón. And, as in Parsifal which story ends on Good Friday, the story of Diablo en Brooklyn ends on the feast of Corpus Christi.
This is an opera-like experience although soaring arias are replaced by the growling, almost guttural voice of Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón and others, and like its Wagnerian counterpart its spare music – almost bereft of long solos and such – mixes musical equivalents of almost Buddhist notions of self-denial with grandiloquent themes of enlightenment through the purest forms of Afro-Peruvian panalivio and festejo forms of dancing, polyrhythmic structures. It is both heart-music and art-music all rolled into one, and it is monumentally beautiful.
Track list – 1: Caras II; Part 3: The Brooklyn Suite; 3: Buscando a Huevito; 4: The Brooklyn Suite: Part 2; Summertime; 5: Part 4: The Brooklyn Suite; 6: El Norte; 7: The Brooklyn Suite: Part 1.
Personnel – Gabriel Alegría: trumpet, flugelhorn, guapeo and shouts; Laura Andrea Leguia: soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones, guapeo and shouts; Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón: cajón, quijada, cajita, campana, guapeo and shouts; Yuri Juárez: acoustic and electric guitar; Mario Cuba: bass; Hugo Alcázar: drums, guapeo and shouts; Russell Ferrante: keyboards (2 – 6); Jocho Velázquez: electric guitar (2).
Released – 2017
Label – Saponegro Records
Runtime – 51:08