Recording Date: November, 2005
Five-string electric bass guitarist Alain Pe'rez has talent far beyond his deft and dedicated ability to play his instrument. For this debut recording he has written all the music, including the punchy three-part horn charts, and assembled a band of relative unknowns in the general scheme, to produce a unique brand of progressive jazz with Latin underpinnings and far-reaching, fervent, abounding joy. You'd have to ask Pe'rez where he came up with all of these brilliant ideas to make music so fresh and original. One could surmise he's heard his share of Machito and Tito Puente, with generous helpings of the Gil Evans or Thad Jones/Mel Lewis big bands and a dollop of Jack Bruce as dessert. The music really jumps out of the speakers with the first three outstanding tracks: the title cut with its churning Latin rhythms, contemporary complex horns, and a Fender Rhodes keyboard; the beautiful "120 & 9" with cleverly steamed, boiling, and simmering rhythms constantly shifting up and down; and the bold sounds of "La Canchanchara," a little heavy and a lot happy. This is truly unbelievable music, but there's much more, as a version of Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee" begins with a ritual chant, kicks into high gear, stutters into a delay mode, and is hard to pin down in its wild construct. "Camino del Oso" is delightfully similar to a Weather Report piece in its hip and heavy, danceable modern Latin overtones. "La Razon" is chunky, funky, and jumpy, "Agarrame Si Puedes" has melded polyrhythms of 6/8 and 4/4 with a Rhodes-led line aside percussion, and there are three vocal cuts led by Pe'rez ranging from a love song to a Yoruban chant and a tribute to his grandfather. Do not pass up this wonderful, eclectic, and vibrant effort by Alain Pe'rez, as good as it gets in the contemporary post-salsa progressive Latin jazz music of now.
All Music Guide
On En El Aire, Perez returns to the style that captured his soul when he performed with Irakere. "I try to compose for my Muse, but when she doesn't come, I search for colors and images that will suggest a certain path," he comments. "Harmony is food for the melody, and as I am a rumbero, the end comes through the clave (the rhythm). Very humbly, I consider myself to be versatile, and life has given me proof that one has to be subservient to their instincts."
The session features the talents of some of Cuba's best young instrumentalists, including pianist Ivan "Melon" Gonzalez Lewis, known for his work with singer Issac Delgado and saxophonist Roman Filiu. The tracks reflect traditions that were passed on to him by his family ("Sabor De Mi Rumba") and the bold, vigorous attitude that defines the cutting edge of today's Cuban jazz tradition and represents an extension of the stylistic path identified by Irakere three decades ago (Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee"). On "A Mi Abuelo Tata" (To My Grandfather Tata), he quotes in his bass solo the old Cuban folk tune "Guantanamera." It is a particularly touching moment on a session packed with energy and innovation.
Interestingly, despite his flair for harmonically and rhythmically bold arrangements and his highly refined improvisational abilities, Perez shies away from proclaiming allegiance to the jazz world. "I don't consider myself a jazz musician," he states frankly. "My sound is an extension of all of the time that I've been developing as an artist, and that includes many influences. Above all, I'm a Cuban musician.