Alain Perez learned about his Cuban musical heritage the same way most other boys of his generation did ,by listening to his grandfather sing tonadas and guarachas while relaxing in a hammock. Now this 29 year old musician composer is helping to not only continue the long heritage of Cuban music but helping it find a new direction as well. En El Aire, on the Barcelona based AYVA label is a wonderful introduction to this multi talented artist. For he is not simply satisfied to be a bass player, Perez is a threat on more levels than that. How? Do you say? Well Perez manages this by being a multiple threat in being a composer, bass player, keyboardist, percussionist and singer. The electric bass , something not always heard as the primary voice on Latin recordings, is Perez main choice of instrument. But he has masterful command of the keyboard and he has a emotional and plaintive voice that is a perfect match for the soulful Cuban sound that is captured on this recording.
This is one of those recordings that even though you have no working knowledge of the language, you get the message just by the emotion. I think that maybe knowing what is being said might just take away something from it all. Often compared to Jaco Pastorius, whom Perez spent a lot of time listening to, Perez took what he heard filtered it through his own voice and came up with s style that is purely his own.
Part big band, part intimate group, part heartfelt songfest, En El Aire is a tightly woven tapestry of music and emotion played by a young man with a clear vision and a deep respect and love for the Cuban tradition that makes this a stand out recording. It is usually folly to try and pick out selections that rise above the rest, first it makes it sound as if the others were somehow lacking, which is not the case. Second each song, as it should, speaks to each person differently. Now having said that there is one number that does make a different kind of impression on you. "A Mi Abuelo Tata" which translates to "My Grandfather Tata". This track is just voice and bass nothing more, and again the language barrier has no meaning. It is a love song between grandson and grandfather, it reflects the deep family ties that enrich not only the lives of those who call Cuba home, but to those whose voices we hear so eloquently on En El Aire. Never mind the fact that it also shows off the virtuoso playing of Mr Perez, and if you listen closely enough you can hear the soft breezes and feel the afternoon sun.
En El Aire displays the full range of this young artist and leaves you with warm feeling knowing that this an artist that is only just starting to come into his prime, that we as fans and listeners came rest easy knowing that there are many more such recordings to come.