Peruvian Jazz ambassador makes a mark with U.S. tour

Trumpeter and composer Gabriel Alegria, one of Peru’s most influential jazz musicians, has made it big on the U.S. jazz scene with his 2008 tour featuring music rich with the heritage of Afro-Peruvian beats and guest appearances by some of today’s top names in jazz. His Peruvian leg of the tour, set to begin on July 31 in Peru’s capital, Lima, offers his American fans a musical tourism journey that promises to blend Peruvian culture, sights and sounds.

Alegria, who describes his jazz as “smoldering and kicked up with the intoxicating polyrhythms of coastal Peru,” has spanned the United States and Canada — kicking off his tour in Toronto, Canada Jan. 9 — before setting foot in Peru.

Tour Peru, Alegria’s “first-class tour of Peru including entertainment, spectacular scenery, music and the best cuisine in the world,” is to run from July 31 through August 10. The musical tourists and fans of Alegria will get to travel with the band, attend music clinics and visit some of Peru’s most celebrated sites.

Alegria’s distinct and personal approach to jazz, which blends the African roots found both in American jazz and the Afro-Peruvian music of coastal Peru, has been compared to the Brazilian and Cuban musical contributions that changed jazz music in the 20th century.

Afro-Peruvian music, known locally as “música criolla,” or Creole music, combines African beats based on chorus and percussion, Spanish rhythms such as Flamenco, Gypsy panache, and Andean influence.

The trumpeter is accompanied on tour by saxophonist Laurandrea Leguía, acoustic guitarist Yuri Juárez, bassist Joscha Oetz, drummer Hugo Alcázar and master percussionist Freddy “Huevito” Lobatón, who plays traditional Afro-Peruvian instruments such as the cajón, or drum box, and the quijada de burro, or donkey’s jawbone.

Alegria is the founder and artistic director of Jazz Peru International, the premier jazz arts and cultural exchange institution in Peru and producer of the country’s annual International Peruvian Jazz Festival.

Currently the associate director of the NYU Steinhart School’s Jazz Faculty, Alegria holds a doctorate degree in jazz studies 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.

He is the grandson of renowned Peruvian novelist Ciro Alegria and son of the acclaimed playwright Alonso Alegria.

His latest CD, “A New World,” features jazz artists such as Bobby Shew, Russell Ferrante, Tierney Sutton and Bill Watrous as well as Peruvian artists such as Freddy ‘Huevito’ Lobaton, Hugo Alcazar, Laurandrea Leguia, Jocho Velazquez and Joscha Oetz.

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