REVIEWS ALEXEY LEÓN
INFLUENCIADO ©℗One World Records 2021
Distribution Trapeze Music (UK), Xango Music (Benelux), PJ Music (Czeck Republic), Indigo De (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, USA, Japan, Greece, Italy), Border Music (Scandinavia). Digital Digidi/ The Orchard
JAZZ MANIA Review by Pierre Dulieu
ALEXEY LEÓN "INFLUENCIADO" ©℗One World Records 2021
The album starts with an ultra-slick arrangement of "Dat Dere", this famous composition by Bobby Timmons which made the heyday of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the early 60s. We meet a high-end rhythm section including double bass player Reinier Elizarde Ruano "El Negrón", drummer Georvis Pico Milian and percussionist Pedro Pablo Rodriguez Mireles (three Cuban musicians who also complete the quartet of pianist Chucho Valdez) ... but also with a tandem of blowers whose improvisations are marked by the precision and impetuosity of Afro-Cuban jazz. On the one hand, saxophonist Alexey León, born in Cuba and raised in Moscow (hence the title "De la Habana a Moscú"), shows a beautiful maturity in his energetic playing while on the other, trumpeter Carlos Sarduy delivers fiery solos that live up to his well-established reputation after winning several “Grammies”. The repertoire also offers another cover, "The Way You Look Tonight", Jerome Kern's standard revisited here in a Latin arrangement... But the best is yet to come with the leader's eight original compositions.
All are part of the tradition of Cuban jazz, half hard-bop, half Latin, driven by complex rhythms capable of liberating the most inhibited soloists. Listen among others to the eponymous title which sums up this playful aesthetic once embraced by Chano Pozo, Dizzy Gillespie and other Machito. The virtuosity of the musicians naturally rubs shoulders with a percussive luxuriance, even if it is the quality of writing and arrangement that ends up winning. In another register, "kyiv Station Blues", which floats in weightlessness, brings a welcome variety, the sinuous saxophone rising in melancholic volutes in a late evening atmosphere. On “Ya voy”, Alexey León swapped his saxophone for a flute, an instrument that we know, with the example of Paquito D'Rivera in mind, is perfectly suited to this kind of music. Finally,
Recorded in Madrid and released on the Danish label One World Records, this fourth disc by Alexey León masterfully revisits the canons of Afro-Cuban jazz. Hard-bop, blues, melodic smoothness, polyrhythmic storms… all the fundamentals are there but redesigned in a new light that plays on nuances. Like that, you can be influenced (“Influenciado”) and still chart your own course!
Alexey León – Influenciado
One World Records
With his fourth album, this Cuban-Russian alto saxophonist completely immerses his listeners in the heritage of Latin, Afro-Cuban and Cuban. Not a retro trip, but an update. Fiery tempos and swirling rhythms in the footsteps of Chucho Valdés, Mario Bauzá and Chano Pozo with enough jazz and blues influences to leave the clichés behind. The fact that León is surrounded by musicians who have also been on the side of Pat Metheny, Paquito D'Rivera and Irakere, among others, helped of course.
Review by Georges Tonla Briquet, JAZZ HALLO May 2022
The reeds and woodwinds artist Alexey León is easily one of the most refreshing voices in Afro-Cuban music. His playing may be characterised by the virile energy that he brings to his music. And Influenciado is typical of this [high] quality of playing music throughout its hour-or-so of music. What strikes one about his music, in the first instance, is that he writes music with terrific panache. He espouses music which is melodically bold, texturally intricate when it comes to melody and rhythm. All the elements of his work are allied to a sensitive awareness of the rich, varied palette of horn colour.
On Influenciado – and together with a power-packed and brilliant cohort of musicians, acutely attuned to his vision and artistry – Mr León conveys the extreme muscularity of Afro-Cuban music, carrying the ear convincingly through passages of familiar music with enticing melodic and harmonic conception. The jazz standards, [Bobby Timmons’] “Dat Dere” and [Dorothy Fields’] “The Way You Look Tonight” illustrate this kind of music quite brilliantly. The latter song unfolds with such bristling energy that you might expect it to unwind ferociously, with such crackling fire that you would expect it to blow up at any time. However, perish the thought, because that impending explosion does not take place until the length and breadth – the tunnels and high walls of the harmony – are explored with magical invention.
As an alto saxophonist Mr León has quite an unique voice. He plays with pronounced rhythmic verve, textural variety and dynamism. The alto saxophonist paints his music with bold primary colours [as in “De la Habana a Moscú”]. However, he also captures nuanced imagery when he writes, and this is the feature of “Kiev Station Blues” with its subtle pastels. He shapes songs with wide and long inventions and when the idea calls for it [as in “Guarachando…”] he sculpts the music with tapered phrases and an amorphous pulse that renders the piece’s dreamy subtext with uncommon ingenuity.
As already suggested, the music on this album is uplifted by true musical heavyweights: trumpeter Carlitos Sarduy plays with nervy, inspired mastery throughout; the pianist Javier Gutiérrez – better known as “Caramelo de Cuba” – weaves his way into this music with vivid personality; bassist Reinier Elizarde “El Negrón” rumbles on contrabass with restless energy. The sound of the bàtá [notably on “Dat Dere”, again rather masterfully in the opening section and the refrains of “The Way You Look Tonight”], and the conga – in the hands of Pedro Pablo Rodríguez is quite breathtaking, as are the drumming accomplishments of both Georvis Pico and Marc Miralta. Together these musicians pull together to produce a work of quite rare genius, which aptly describes – in the first instance – the performance of alto saxophonist and flutist, Alexey León.
Track list – 1: Dat Dere; 2: De la Habana a Moscú/From Havana to Moscow; 3: Influenciado; 4: La Ceiba [intro]; 5: La Ceiba; 6: Kiev Station Blues; 7: Guarachando en Moscú; 8: Ya voy; 9: The Way You Look Tonight; 10: Noche de Carnaval
Personnel – Alexey León: alto saxophone and flute [8, 10]; Carlos Sarduy: trumpet [1 – 3, 5, 7 – 10]; Javier Gutiérrez “Caramelo de Cuba”: piano; Reinier Elizarde “El Negrón”: contrabass; Pedro Pablo Rodríguez: bàtá [1, 3 – 5, 7, 8] and congas [2, 9, 10]; Georvis Pico: drums [1 – 3, 9, 10]; Marc Miralta: drums [3, 5 – 8]
Released – 2021
Label – One World Records [ALCV 2021]
Runtime – 48:34
Born in Cuba, raised and educated in Moscow, then educated in Spain… as this you could sum up the life of this still young saxophonist, flutist and composer in one line. However, the guy with this "Influenciado" is not up to his musical test and risks the summary of the musical activity to be a little longer, but we still try: this record is his fourth under his own name, after "Cuba Meets Russia ”(2015), Cuban Connection (2018) and“ Okudzhava for my mother ”(2020). You can freely translate that sequence of titles as "you can get the boy out of Cuba, but you can not get Cuba out of the boy" and the youngest fits in so well.
After all, Alexey pays homage to the greatness of the Afro-Cuban jazz tradition, a description that inevitably brings us to names like Cannonball Adderley, Chucho Valdez & Irakere, McCoy Tyner and Paquito D’Rivera, to name just a few. He does this through nine songs, all own compositions except two: "That Dere" by Bobby Timmons, known from Art Blakey and then "The Way You Look Tonight", the classic by Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kerr of which both Sinatra and Bublé, Bennett and Getz beautiful versions were recorded, and here re-arranged by León himself.
To put it all in good order - the title track takes its name from Chucho Valdés' "Mambo Influenciado" - Alexey appealed to quite a few beautiful people: pianist Caramelo de Cuba comes from Paquito D'Rivera and does great things here on "De La Habana a Moscú", the rhythm section, consisting of Georvis Pico, Pedro Pablo Rodriguez and Reinier "El Negron" Elizarde, are three quarters of Valdés' quartet, trumpeter Carlos Sarduy earned his tracks already at Valdés and at Irakere, and The Spanish master-drummer Marc Miralta, who is allowed to shine in "Guarachando", a song that also appeared on "Cuban Connection", is certainly not unknown to fans of Pat Metheny or Avishai Cohen. These are all guys you can get along with and they - they can simply play anything - are the ideal accompanists to show León the evolution he has undergone over the years.
Dani Heyvaert, ROOTSTIME, May 5th 2022
AFRO BASE / TOTALLY RADIO
ALEXEY LEÓN "INFLUENCIADO" ©℗One World Records 2021
"It’s a stunning jazz release, beautifully recorded by Shayan Fathi and superbly mixed by & mastered by Pablo Schuller. No instrument suffers from poor placement. Impressed by the musicianship, the bass shines through, the percussive contributions bringing elements of rumba tradition, and love the contemporary timba/Valdes references throughout from Caremelo de Cuba. But on top of that Alexey’s playing is totally re-energising. A top Cuban jazz album for 2022! In fact it’s full of such positive energy and I'm loving it!"
John Warr, AfroBase, Totally Radio UK, December 25, 2021
The Cuban saxophonist, flutist and composer Alexey León returns with his fourth solo creation: Influenciado. The album, produced by the prestigious Danish label ONE WORLD RECORDS, includes 8 original pieces by Alexey himself, and two arrangements by him: Dat Dere and The way you look tonight.Born in Manzanillo and raised in Moscow, León debuted in 2015 with Cuba meets Russia; later he presented Cuban connection, in 2018, and Okudzhava for my mother, in 2020.On this occasion, Alexey pays tribute to the masters who forged Latin Jazz or Afro-Cuban Jazz: Mario Bauza, Chano Pozo, Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley, McCoy Tyner and Chucho Valdés and Irakere, among others.Dat Dere, the Bobby Timmons classic, recorded by Art Blakey, is the perfect prologue to this album, in which Alexey shines in a memorable saxophone solo, backed by the always brilliant Carlos Sarduy on trumpet.
"De La Habana a Moscú" is an explosive interpretative demonstration of Latin Jazz at the highest level, with outstanding performances by Javier Gutiérrez, "Caramelo de Cuba", in a masterful piano solo, as well as Alexey himself on saxophone and Pedro Pablo from Pinar del Río Rodríguez to the congas.The piece that gives its name to the album, Influenciado, is a frenetic composition, with great performances by Caramelo de Cuba on piano, and Sarduy on trumpet.
"La Ceiba" infects us with a great influence of blues and 6/8 African rhythms, where we can delight in the solos of Santa Clara's Reinier Elizarde, El Negrón, and Pedro Pablo Rodríguez on the sacred Batá drums.
In "Kyiv Station Blues", Alexey dazzles with his saxophone reading. In the cheerful and festive "Guarachando", a song already included on the Cuban connection album, Alexey puts the rhythms of Second Line (New Orleans) in dialogue with Cuban Timba, highlighting the work of the consecrated Spanish drummer, Marc Miralta.
The rhythmic Latin soul "Ya Voy", with airs of chachachá, serves to make Alexey stand out, this time on the flute.The reinterpretation of the popular jazz theme "The way you look tonight" (Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern) is masterful and magically arranged by Alexey as a Conga Santiaguera.The album concludes with the lively samba "Noche de Carnaval".
Without a doubt, Influenciado must be considered by critics as one of the best 5 Latin Jazz albums of 2022.
LINE UP: Alexey León - saxophone and flute; Carlos Sarduy - trumpet; Javier Gutiérrez Massó, "Caramelo de Cuba" - piano; Reinier Elizarde, El Negrón - double bass; Georvis Pico - drums; Pedro Pablo Rodríguez percussion; Marc Miralta – drums
COMPOSITIONS: Dat Dere; From Havana to Moscow; Influenced; La Ceiba: intro; Ceiba; Kyiv Station Blues; Guarachando; I'm going; The way you look tonight; Carnival Night
STUDIOS: Recorded by Shayan Fathi, at Camaleón Studio (Madrid). Mixed and mastered by Pablo Schuller, at Schuller Sound (Valencia).
SUPPORT: Koda Culture
DJ El Chino, Solar Latin Club, December 29, 2021