The Spotlight Series highlights upcoming Latin Jazz musicians that have yet to reach national recognition. Many of these musicians thrive in local scenes and some tour in support of releases. All these musicians contribute greatly to the overall Latin Jazz scene, and they deserve our “spotlighted” attention.
When a new style of Latin Jazz emerges, artists have plenty of work ahead of them, developing the nuances and subtleties of the genre. When musicians draw upon a specific cultural heritage, they need to decide how deep they will dig into its background. They could simply draw upon the culture’s popular music or they could integrate the country’s folklore, connecting their artistic statement to a sense of national identity. The artist needs to determine which aspects of jazz they will use as a basis for their unique fusion. Most rhythmic styles from the Caribbean and South America can hold a variety of approaches to jazz harmony – from the straight ahead movement of swing to the rapidly changing chords of bebop or the open foundation in free jazz; it can all serve as a realistic connection to Latin rhythms. At that point, the artist needs to decide if they will combine their concept with any other rhythmic ideas. They could potentially utilize pieces of rock or fusion as well as other Latin American styles. There’s ample room for experimentation and development in the early stages of a Latin Jazz style, and the more people that seriously tackle this undertaking, the more interesting the style becomes. Guitarist Yuri Juarez, already experienced in Afro-Peruvian Jazz through performances with trumpet player Gabriel Alegria and guitarist Eric Kurimski, looks at the style from his own vantage point on Afroperuano.
Balancing Peruvian Influences With A Commercial Sound
Juarez builds upon established Afro-Peruvian Jazz settings on many pieces with the integration of synthesizers, extensive vocal scats, and tightly arranged forms. A thick synthesizer patch and an electric bass float over a driving festejo rhythm on “Cantelo Usted” before Juarez jumps into the Metheny-esque melody. After a brief guitar and marimba unison passage, Juarez leaps into a well-constructed improvisation first on acoustic guitar before making a switch to electric. The rhythm section delivers a strong accompaniment with a commercial edge, filled with slickly produced synthesizers and repetitive grooves. Juarez plucks a lush chordal accompaniment over a slow valse rhythm on “Guisella” before sharing melodic duties with a lyricless vocal that adds a smooth quality to the track. Juarez shines on his improvisation, crafting lines that smartly play off the rhythmic foundation and connect into a flowing melodic whole. The acoustic quality of the group during Juarez’s solo provides a striking contrast to the soft melodic section, providing a distinctly different beauty. A sparse marimba groove interlocks with an upbeat festejo groove on “Festejeando” before Juarez launches into a catchy melody dripping with lush synthesizer accompaniment. Flautist Junior Pacora flies into his improvisation with nimble lines and a sharp tone that cuts through the thick texture behind him. Juarez follows with an assertive improvisation that drives long lines straight into Jorge Luis Cardenas’ synthesizer solo. The rhythm section plays with a dramatic intensity behind vocalist Jorge Pardo’s urgent melody on “Rosa Del Mar” before the mood changes into a lighter feeling with Pilar de la Hoz scatting an upbeat phrase. Saxophonist Abel García pushes the groove with a brash tone and aggressive ideas, transitioning to Juarez, who captures the mood and drives angular melodic lines through the changes. After a brief vocal interlude from Pardo, the group quiets as percussionist Larua Robles and drum kit player Hugo Alcázar trade rhythmic ideas over the festejo background. These pieces add a different element to Afro-Peruvian Jazz, exploring a softer and more commercial sound to the music.
Exposing Unexpected Influences
Juarez integrates a variety of unexpected influences into the Afro-Peruvian context on other tracks. The rhythm section supports Juarez with a laid-back funk feel on “Acuariana,” providing a refreshing change with a move into a samba behind the catchy bridge section. Juarez captures the song’s feel precisely with strongly constructed melodic lines filled with a sense of motion and lyricism reflective of Wes Montgomery. Pianist Pepe Cespedes follows with an understated improvisation on synthesizer that builds the intensity with a bluesy forward motion. A repeated guitar riff accompanied by violin implies a tango edge on “Astorpolka” before Juarez enters a cleverly constructed melody riding a country-influenced polka. Juarez takes an extended improvisation bursting with inspired creativity as the rhythm section moves through polka, swing, and more. Cespedes gets a brief opportunity to create a statement, developing an understated solo that leads directly back into the melody. Enderson Herencia complements Juarez’s melody with phrases on both quena and zampoña, giving an Andean flavor to the driving funk groove on “Carnaval De Arequipa.” Juarez and Herencia both travel through variations upon the main theme as the rhythm section alters its foundation with breaks, funky changes, and swing sections. The band explodes into a funk breakdown that adds a different twist to the melody as Herencia comps underneath Juarez with rapid charango strums. Juarez takes Afro-Peruvian Jazz in a variety of directions on these tracks, blending Peruvian rhythms with funk, polka, samba, and jazz improvisation to create a new edge to the style.
Creeping Closer To Tradition On Acoustic Tracks
Juarez creeps closer to a traditional idea of Afro-Peruvian Jazz on some tracks, showing a strong diversity. The sole sound of Juarez’s guitar anchors the melody on “Una Noche Sin Ti,” sailing over a laid-back jazz ballad with the bluesy Montgomery influenced conviction. After the melody, percussionist Juan Medrano “Cotito” begins a landó rhythm on his cajon, pushing Juarez’s solo in a different direction. Juarez spins inspired lines with a bluesy edge, followed by Céspedes, who assertively builds a simmering solo over the acoustic setting. Juarez travels through series of descending lines while a cajon, cajita, and quijada hold a steady festejo rhythm on Roberto Rivas’ “Arroz Con Conolón.” A small group of string players interject complementary lines around Juarez’s melodic material, creating a tightly interlocking arrangement. Juarez doesn’t include much improvisation here; it’s a solid piece of traditional music played with conviction and style, wrapped around a pre-constructed form. Bassist Mariano Liy and Juarez provide a smoldering melodic interpretation on Chucho Valdes’ “Mambo Influenciado,” altering the standard melody to fit the six beat structure of the Zamacueca rhythm. Trumpet player Pepe Villanueva and Juarez trade improvisational statements, taking turns filling each chorus with a bluesy intensity that recalls the source material while integrating new rhythmic ideas. Liy displays character and personality in his solo, utilizing slides between notes, quick runs, and double stops to build a distinct statement. Juarez moves through a traditional melody with a repeated phrase on “Gracia,” playing with an elegant finesse over a steady valse rhythm from Marcos Mosquera’s cajon. A well-crafted string arrangement complements Juarez’s performance, providing ample amounts of graceful atmosphere and rhythmic propulsion. The recording stays faithful to the song’s traditional roots, avoiding jazz embellishments and following a clearly defined arrangement. These tracks show a more acoustic side to Juarez’s musical personality, firmly grounded in both traditional Peruvian music and jazz influences.
Exploring New Possibilities In A Young Style
Juarez explores many possible interpretations of Afro-Peruvian Jazz on Afroperuano, integrating a wide range of ideas that include fusion, jazz, pop, and traditional rhythms. There’s an abundance of commercially accessible material, guaranteed with tightly arranged forms, strategically produced sounds, and memorable melodies. Juarez walks the line between infusions of improvisatory personality and synthesizer-laden smooth jazz, indulging in both worlds, but never quite falling into them completely. The acoustic tracks shine brightly, as Juarez digs into traditional Peruvian music and jazz, seemingly revealing a more honest side to his personality. He displays admirable strength as a performer throughout the release though, interpreting melodies and improvising with great skill. Juarez’s phrasing owes a great deal to Metheny, as he effortlessly creates flowing melodies with substance and style. There are many sides to Juarez’s improvisational voice though, as he integrates rougher rhythms and note choices into his ideas. His arrangements really run the show, serving as defining structures for the musicians and artistic concept. He gives extensive thought to each tune; his combination of Peruvian rhythms and contemporary styles blend seamlessly. Juarez relishes in his themes extensively, repeating them with variation many times, often at the cost of improvisation. His concept remains sound throughout the album, giving a pleasant and even experience. Juarez bravely pushes Afro-Peruvian Jazz through these stylistic directions on Afroperuano, helping carve new directions for this still young branch of Latin Jazz.
Check Out These Related Posts:
Album of the Week: Nuevo Mundo, Gabriel Alegria
Album of the Week: Replica, Eric Kurimski
Album of the Week: Áurea, Geoffrey Keezer
Spotlight: Para Los Engreidos, Manante