About the Afro-Peruvian Sextet
“The Afro-Peruvian Sextet is writing a new chapter in the history of Latin jazz.”
– Doug Ramsey, Rifftides
The Afro-Peruvian Sextet was established in 2005. The ensemble’s insistently inventive program of traditional Afro-Peruvian music transformed by Gabriel Alegría’s highly personal synthesis of folkloric Afro-Peruvian rhythms, jazz, and other musical strains has led to a signature accomplishment: developing the band’s patented blend of deep scholarship and playfulness into a touring experience that conveys a vast knowledge of the music and, perhaps more importantly, transmits black music from coastal Perú as a way of life to its audiences.
Each member of the Sextet is not only a master musician but also a dedicated and experienced educator. During more than ten years on the road together, the mission of the band has incessantly been to spread the joy and love of Afro-Peruvian music around the world. This has happened both on the stage and through workshops, master classes, after-hour hangs and even cooking (as food and music are inseparable in Afro-Peruvian musical culture, the band is never shy to demonstrate!) As trumpet master Bobby Shew once commented “hanging out with these people is a chapter in your life!”
The Afro-Peruvian Sextet has produced five CDs, one DVD and one vinyl record to date. Their audiences come from all over the globe and include a legion of dedicated fans who work directly with the band on various projects including concert promotion, merchandise sales and most notably, Tour Perú, an innovative concept by which fans of the band literally join the musicians on the road in Perú once per year. With home bases in Lima and New York City, the band has been embraced by both cities. In 2015 Hot House Magazine awarded the band New York City’s “Best Ensemble of the Year” award and the New York City Jazz Record “Best Latin Jazz Album.”
The band has successfully developed and consolidated a thriving “scene” around Afro-Peruvian jazz music. The Latin Jazz Network described the band in this way: “Every once in a while there comes a musician who, when playing his or her chosen instrument, seems to carry within a vital life-force that is irrepressible.”
Amidst the Afro-Peruvian Sextet’s detailed fusion of Afro-Peruvian rhythms and jazz harmonies, lies a very demanding, authentic and honest interpretation. The New York Times writes “the Sextet knows its mission well and has the execution down to a science.” “Peruvian trumpeter Gabriel Alegría champions Afro-Peruvian music,” wrote Downbeat Magazine in a prominent review, “the hip asymmetrical bass line of Alegría’s El Norte is goaded by wonderful hand percussion and stickmanship on cajita from Hugo Alcázar and Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón.” Latino Magazine described the music as “rhythm-saturated, orchestrally-enticing performances that are the definition of sonic joy” while the Wall Stree Journal echoed with “a highly sympatico blend of North American improv and South American beats.”
Support for the band in their native Perú is also significant. Dedicated “Fans & Voluntarios” sign up on each of the band’s tours to work shows, sell merchandise and participate in the band’s social outreach missions. Local media and press have followed and documented the development of the band. The country’s most important newspaper, El Comercio describes the Afro-Peruvian Sextet as “the catalyst that marks the start of Afro-Peruvian jazz music’s flight to the international stage.”
Gabriel Alegría – trumpet & flugel horn / composition
During the course of a career that has spanned the globe, Alegría has appeared in concert and/or on recordings with Eva Ayllón, Susana Baca, Arturo O’Farrill, Maria Schneider, Placido Domingo, Kenny Werner, Ingrid Jensen, Tierney Sutton, The Peruvian National Symphony, Bill Watrous, Russ Ferrante and Alex Acuña. Most recently he completed the groundbreaking “Tour Peru”, a new model in touring that includes fans that accompany the Afro-Peruvian Sextet throughout Peru. He has also performed concerts for the United Nations and various diplomatic
missions from around the world and taught master classes at every level of the educational spectrum. The Afro-Peruvian Sextet has appeared in over 800 concerts and master classes throughout the world. Alegría earned a doctorate in music from the University of Southern California, a master’s degree from the City University of New York and a bachelor’s degree from Kenyon College. His knowledge of Afro-Peruvian music is the result of fieldwork and growing up in Perú learning from the art form’s greatest exponents.
Laurandrea Leguía – tenor and soprano saxophone / composition
Peruvian saxophonist and composer Laurandrea Leguía has participated in Gabriel Alegría’s Afro-Peruvian projects since their inception in the year 2000. She has become Gabriel Alegría’s writing counterpart penning a large part of the material for the band’s recordings. Her playing is featured prominently throughout the band’s music and can be described as a new language that uses diatonic transposition within the flavor and structures of Coastal music from Perú. Leguía has toured the USA, Latin America, Europe and Canada with various Afro-Peruvian projects and her performing, writing and recording credits include work with luminary Afro-Peruvian artists Eva Ayllón and Manuel Donayre. Laura Andrea holds a master’s degree in Jazz Studies from New York University. She released her fist solo project called Saxofón Criollo in 2011. Most notably, she has recently launched her most ambitious creative project to date: The Laura Andrea Leguía Afro-Peruvian Orchestra.
Yuri Juarez – guitar
Yuri Juarez is a passionate scholar, performer and disciple of Afro-Peruvian music born in one of Lima’s most emblematic musical neighborhoods, Breña. Most notably he has served as musical director and guitarist for the Afro-Peruvian dance troupe Milenio participating in both Latin American and European tours. He has also performed and recorded with Susana Baca, Chaqueta Piaggio, Pilar de la Hoz, Eva Ayllón and released a solo recording that traces the evolution of Afro-Peruvian music. Most recently he released Tango Landó with Argentinian singer Sofía Tosello, bridging the gap between two seemingly disparate musical traditions. Yuri has performed consistently with the Sextet since joining the band in 2008 and can be heard on four Sextet albums: Pucusana (2010), El Secreto del Jazz Afroperuano (2012), Ciudad de los Reyes (2013) and “10” (2015). He holds his master’s degree from New York University and is currently putting the finishing touches on an ambitious orchestral concerto called “Guitar Sapiens.”
Mario Cuba – double bass
Considered a prodigy of the bass throughout Lima, Mario learned to play his instrument on city streets and by shadowing his favorite musicians in styles ranging from criollo music to jazz. As the latest musician to join the Sextet in 2011, Mario brings a deep and rich knowledge of Peruvian folklore and is able to express that sentiment uniquely on the double bass. He considers himself an eternal student of the music and has remained largely self-taught throughout his career. He believes in the importance and respect with which traditional music should be treated in performance and is very happy to share with all those who want to learn from him the “secrets” of Afro-Peruvian and criollo music.
Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón - percussion / zapateo dancing
A master percussionist and zapateo dancer, Maestro Huevito hails from Pamplona Alta, Lima, Peru. He has performed and toured internationally with Afro-Peruvian music luminaries and played and composed for Eva Ayllón, Peru Negro, Lucila Campos, Guajaja and la Peña Don Porfirio. A member of Peru’s legendary Lobatón family, Huevito began developing his skills at the age of four watching his father’s dance troupe rehearse in their living room. He is considered the world’s leading authority on Peruvian zapateo dancing, a three-time National Champion, and one of the most virtuosic percussionists of his generation. Huevito’s distinctive approach to the cajón, quijada (jawbone) and cajita in a jazz context has made him a pioneer among Afro-Peruvian percussionists. He is often considered “the best cajón player in the world.” He is a founding member and an essential element of Gabriel Alegriá’s music since 2005. Huevito has also appeared as guest artist on stage and in recordings with The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra, Arturo O’farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra and in hundreds of recordings and broadcasts throughout Perú.
Shirazette Tinnin – drums
A native of North Carolina, she grew up surrounded by the depths of gospel and soul music within the southern churches. It was at an early age that she discovered her love for rhythm. Her experiences in North Carolina included performing & sharing the stage with Boney James, Melva Houston, Cle Thompson, The Solos Unit, Joe Robinson and Arturo Sandoval. Shirazette completed her master’s degree at Northern Illinois University under the direction of Ron Carter. In 2008 Shirazette won the Sisters in Jazz Competition making her one of the top female jazz drummers in the world. Shirazette joined the Sextet in 2009, filling in for founding drummer Hugo Alcázar for engagements outside of Perú. She can be heard on Ciudad de los Reyes, El Secreto del Jazz Afroperuano and “10.” Shirazette has been featured on BET TV with the Alicia Keyes project. She has also performed for showcases with the Beyonce Band and Tía Fuller.