Chilcano – Madera Corazón (Saponegro Records 2011)

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Review written by: Raul da Gama

Trumpeter Gabriel Alegría’s first album to attract attention was the sensational Nuevo Mundo, which featured his seminal sextet, an ensemble that included one of the greatest living Peruvian musical masters, Freddy “Huevito” Lobaton, a percussionist whose genius is every bit the equal to that other great Latin American, Nana Vasconscelos of Brazil. The personnel in that ensemble—with a change of bassist—produced another startling album, Pucusana. However, with Chilcano, Alegria has stepped out with a eponymously named new band featuring what appear to be native New Yorkers who have shuffled their way into the Afro-Peruvian groove. And although Laura Andrea Leguía is featured on two charts, the second horn on the album comes from the depths of the tonal spectrum, in the person of baritone saxophonist, Lauren Wood. Of course, this changes the tonal complexion of the music most dramatically, carving the melody out of the gravitas of the songs’ bass lines instead.

Gabriel Alegría has included two charts from Pucusana and the changes are palpable. These are “Taita Guaranguito” and “Pucusana,” two remarkable rhythmic masterpieces, re-arranged by Alegría. The growling baritone played by Wood provides sharp textural and tonal contrasts to Alegría’s bright and burnished trumpet and flugelhorn. However, the stage is really set with “Sambalandó” a jitterbug’s cakewalk that melds the Brazilian samba with the Afro-Peruvian landó. Alegría shows off his chops throughout. His intonation is sharp and pure; he conducts himself with the purity of tone, although he sometimes chortles and growls like Duke Ellington’s early protégé, Bubber Miley. This gutbucket style is soon awash with the piercing wail of his trumpet. The glissandi are tempered with long lines that leap and fall like waves. When he plunges below the melodic flatline elevations turn to inversions and the change in the mood and energy of the pieces also change dramatically.

This is a breathtakingly beautiful album which dances and swings with a rhythm all its own and although the dominant presence of Freddy “Huevito” Lobaton is missed, percussionists, John Mark Doing and Antonio Vilchez do a commendable job by creating the Afro-Peruvian pulse between themselves. The other notable absence is acoustic guitarist Yuri Juarez. However, Grant Fisher is impressive albeit louder. Texturally this album has a somewhat different feel. The timbres of the instruments have a sharper edge compared to the softer, more rounded and woody tones and textures of the instruments of the sextet. Still this is a dancing album with bright colours that are urbane and stand out in the resplendent bronzy colours of the trumpet and saxophones; and in the reds and gold’s that are reflected in the bass, drums and percussion.

Track Listing: 1. Sambalandó; 2. Taita Guaranguito; 3. Pucusana; 4. Moche; 5. Madera Corazón; 6. La Esquina del Pensamiento; 7. El Diablo Mayor; 8. Coati—Overture; 9. Coati.

Personnel: Gabriel Alegría: trumpet, flugelhorn; Lauren Wood: baritone saxophone; Grant Fisher: electric guitar; Aaron Prado: keyboards; Alexander DaSilva: electric bass; Antonio Vilchez: cajon, quijada, cajita; John Mark Doing: drums; Laura Andrea Leguía: tenor saxophone (6, 7).

Related links: Chilcano on the web: www.chilcano.org

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