Trumpeter Gabriel Alegria ’93 will present a concert with the Lima Interescolar Big Band Wednesday, May 4, at 7 p.m. at the Ariel Foundation Park Schnormeier Event Center in nearby Mount Vernon.
Alegria and his professional group, the Afro-Peruvian Sextet, also will conduct a four-day residency at Kenyon this fall and play a joint concert with the Kenyon Jazz Ensemble at Rosse Hall on Oct. 13. Alegria’s sextet also came to campus in 2008 and 2012 for residencies and concerts.
Alegria graduated from Mount Vernon High School in 1988 and then from Kenyon with a degree in music. He has a doctorate from the University of Southern California.
Alegria is considered a pioneer of Afro-Peruvian jazz and tours the world with the Afro-Peruvian Sextet. Since forming in 2005, the sextet has produced five albums and a DVD. Once per year it conducts “Tour Peru,” when fans can play with the musicians.
Professor of Music Ted Buehrer ’91 said, “Throughout its history, jazz has always been about the fusion of disparate musical elements. I’ve known Gabriel since our days as students at Kenyon, so I know he is deeply rooted in American jazz. But his most important contribution to the music has been the way in which he has fused the indigenous rhythms and instruments of coastal Peru with the melodies and harmonies of jazz. No one else in the world was doing this when he started, and he remains at the forefront today.”
Alegria started playing trumpet at age 12 because his father insisted everyone in the family play a musical instrument (though the family was known for a different form of art: his grandfather was one of Peru’s most famous novelists and his father one of its most acclaimed playwrights). Gabriel was the first in his immediate family to make music a professional career.
Alegria told an interviewer in 2008: “Peruvians say we sound very Peruvian, and Americans feel that our music is jazz. In many ways the art lies in the fact that we fooled them all! Actually, it is a language that lies somewhere in the delicate space between the two.”
The Interescolar youth ensemble from Lima, Peru, will play jazz classics and Afro-Peruvian jazz music in their concert with Alegria. The youth in Interescolar are between 13 and 19 years old and play traditional jazz instruments and Peruvian percussion pieces such as the cajon (a wooden box drum), the cajita (a trapezoidal small drum) and quijada (an animal jaw bone). They will perform “Solar” by Miles Davis and “Cottontail” by Duke Ellington as well as Peruvian pieces such as “Toromata,” a traditional Afro-Peruvian folk song.