It may not happen from the first note, but soon the music on Afroperuano begins to magically evoke the sound of the wind rushing through the rarified air of the Peruvian Andes. It is also possible to feel the swishing of skirts and the infectious gaiety of dancers as the fleet fingers of Yuri Juarez glide and fly across the neck of his guitar. They tingle and crash upon strings sharing the passion of the music with a group of fine artists. Juarez is able to conjure up the air of carnival as it dances down happy streets. Mystery and magic abounds on this fine tribute to the gorgeous mixture of African and native melody and rhythm that is rife on this record.
Yuri Juarez has a unique “vocal” style of playing. He spits and rolls out his notes as if he were employing tongue and lips and palette as well as fingers and thumbs on both hands. As a happy result, his festejo and huayno skip and bustle with sun-kissed brightness and excitement. His valse glides and pirouettes with extraordinary grace. The polka swings with mad abandon and the lando might just elicit a flood of emotions as its harmony trembles with elemental sadness, sometimes.
“Cantelo Usted” and “Rosa Del Mar” are extraordinary in both their adherence to the classical rhythms and a bow towards the contemporary interpretation of an otherwise old art form. Melodically these are superbly rendered and with dynamics and phrasing that could only come from an instrumental imitation of a romantically imagined vocal rendition. Similar praise can be sung of Juarez’s interpretation of the valse in a wonderful ballad, “Guisella” that does favorably with a later one – “Insistire” – composed by the legendary Carlos Hayre. Here Juarez shines with particular brightness as he is moody and brilliantly alone, unaccompanied by the rest of the musicians as he picks his way through the labyrinthine melody of the song.
There is never a dull moment on this record that features several other folk forms. The panalivio, that is entitled “Acuariana” transcends the simplistic with an unusual measure of atonality and a surprising reference to the Brasilian samba as the music picks up the pace. Chucho Valdes’ beautiful and popular “Mambo Influenciado” is respectfully rendered as a brilliant and lively zamacueca and evokes the fun of the coastal festivities, while still harking back to the “mambo.” And of course “Carnival de Arequipa” brings the set to a close with Enderson Herencia playing superbly on quena, zampoña and charango as the group makes a spectacular reference to the binary rhythm of the huayno – the heart of Andean dance bases in pentatonica.
The musicians on this session excel in all departments. Drummer, Hugo Alcázar is characteristically self-effacing, but he is busy rattling the snares and rumbling at the tom-toms. His shimmering cymbal splashes are melodically potent. The various percussionists are right on the money every time they caress or slap the skin. Theirs is an almost spiritual connection with the art of twanging the music out of the quijada and coaxing the cajon to thunder ecstatically. The string quartet brings other worldly grace to the music they interpret and improvise upon. Enderson Herencia appears to be omnipresent and always just where he has to be harmonically for Juarez to escape on his solo expeditions. And it is always a joy to hear Pilar de la Hoz interpret the vocal parts of the music with Jorge Pardo and others in the chorus when called for.
Afroperuano is further proof that the music of Peru is fast occupying a prominent part of the world stage and Yuri Juarez can take comfort for playing his part in bring attention to it where it matters.
Tracks: Cantelo Usted; Astorpolka; Guisella; Una Noche Sin Ti; Arroz Con Concolon; Acuariana; Insistire; Rosa Del Mar; Gracia; Festejando; Mambo Influenciado; Carnaval de Agrequipa.
Personnel: Yuri Juarez: guitars, percussion; Enderson Herencia: electric bass; Josha Oetz: acoustic bass; Mariano Liy: electric bass, keyboards; Abel Garcia: tenor saxophone solo (8); Pepe Villanueva: trumpet (11); Jorge Luis Cardenas “El Bola”: keyboards; Pepe Cespedes: keyboards; Maria Elena Pacheco: violin; Raphael Nuñez: viola; Miguel Reina: cello; Marcos Mosquera: percussion; Laura Robles: percussion; Juan Medrano Cotito: percussion; Dick Minano: percussion; Junior Pecora: flute (10), percussion; Hugo Alcázar: drums; Alex Sarrin: drums (2) Pilar de la Hoz: voice; Jorge Pardo: voice.