Alex Acuña | Gifts

Percussionist extraordinaire Alex Acuña takes a tour of his musical roots and more for his latest release, Gifts

Those who are go-to musicians are willing and able to utilize their skills to lead, enhance and be flexible in whatever musical environment that is set before them. Alex Acuña absolutely fits this description as a drummer/percussionist whose contributions defy any category. In other words, this 77 years young Peruvian native has backed a countless list of renown musical talent. Whether Acuña has contributed for movie soundtracks like Star Wars: The Last Jedi or as one of several musicians who graced jazz fusion giants Weather Report and worked alongside pop music icons such as Paul McCartney, he has never overlooked his rich musical heritage.

For his first bandleading project in 17 years, Acuña blends an impressive range of Latin jazz with fusion delights as demonstrated on Gifts (Le Coq Records) – reuniting his band Alex Acuña & The Unknowns plus saxophonist Lorenzo Ferrero. “In Town” meshes soft Latin overtones and Otmaro Ruiz’s colorful acoustic piano solo. Passive blues sprinkle all over the mid-60’s crossover classic from Cannonball Adderley, “Mercy Mercy Mercy,” featuring Ramón Stagnoro on guitar. In a higher gear, “Cuncho” spotlights Acuña’s dexterity on drums and his percussion arsenal, especially on congas, shifting midway to a Latin big band sound with vocals. Acuña’s percussive climax centered on a drum kit/timbale duet and a be-bop passage featuring Ruiz on piano are the driving force behind “One Finger Snap.” An ambient setting on “Regalo” provides a sweeping canvas anchored by Acuña’s hand percussion, capped with Stagnoro’s guitar and John Peña’s fluid electric bass lines. Besides the above-mentioned pieces, this 10-track Gift offering from Acuña and friends echo a full commitment in expressing music deep down from their souls. Five out of five stars.

Peggy Oliver
The Urban Music Scene