Featuring: Alain Pérez (b, Rhodes, perc), Pepe Rivero (p, Rhodes), Iván Lewis ‘Melón’ (p), Javier Massó ‘Caramelo’ (p), Georvis Pico (d) Kiki Ferrer (d, perc), Pepe Espinosa (cga), Carlos Sarduy (tp), Román Filiu (as), Inoidel Gonzalés (ss).
On En El Aire, Pérez 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.”
His instincts are keen not only in his role as a composer and arranger but on the electric bass, an instrument infrequently heard as a primary solo voice on Latin jazz recordings. The album’s title track is an eye-opener. The horn section ignites a brazen unison attack, sketching the melody with fiery intensity while trap drummer Georvis Pico matches the energy with thunderous accents and crisp cymbal work. Pérez floats easily in the background, adding a thick undercurrent of harmonic counterpoint. When he solos, the instrument’s guitar persona takes over and his melodic, his technically daunting style reflecting the influence of Pastorius, Wooten, Stanley Clarke and other giants of the electric bass tradition. When trumpeter Carlos Sarduy enters for his solo, Pérez retreats, but not far; his intricate, undulating line adds yet another arresting sonic detail to the arrangement. The ballad “Descansa El Sol” (The Sun Rests) presents another side of Pérez’s personality as he basks in the melodic beauty of the piece, laying down a pensive, evocative solo while engaging in subtle interplay with saxophonist Inoidel Gonzáles and Javier Massó on Fender Rhodes.
The session features the talents of some of Cuba’s best young instrumentalists, including pianist Iván "Melón" González Lewis, known for his work with singer Issac Delgado and saxophonist Román Filiú. 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, Pérez 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.”
1. En el aire
2. 120 & 9
4. Descansa el Sol
5. Donna Lee (Charlie Parker)
6. Convergencia (B.J. Gutiérrez)
7. La Razón
8. Camino del Oso
9. Sabor de mi Rumba
10. Agárrame si Puedes
11. A mi Abuelo Tata
Recorded in Madrid, Spain. 2005