January 2009

From The Other Side

Alexis Baró From The Other Side CD release party
January 29, 2009 Lula Lounge Toronto
From the other side of Alexis Baró
by Aline Badr with photos by Roger Humbert
“By the last tune, I want to see all of you on your feet” demanded Alexis Baró and sure enough, it seems we all did exactly that. It was Thursday, January 29, 2009 when the CD release party of trumpeter Alexis Baró took place at Toronto’s Lula lounge. From the Other Side is Baró’s second album; his first, Havana Banana, was voted best album of 2004 by Jazz.FM91.1.

I knew this would be a special night when I heard the lineup of musicians Baró had assembled. His double band, yes, double band, featured himself on trumpet, Robi Botos on keys, Paco Luviano on bass, Otis Williams on drums, Jalidan Ruiz Castro on percussions, Chendy Leon on drums, KC Roberts on electric guitar, Jeff King on sax and Rich Brown on bass.

Baró was not joking around! Indeed, he was serious and eager to showcase the product of the many sounds that have influenced him to date. Yes, Baró is a native of Havana, Cuba, where he has been classically trained, but no longer can he be labeled as just the ‘Latin Jazz guy’. Baró is a multi-faceted artist, and his latest CD, cleverly labeled ‘From the other side’ proves exactly that.

As the band began thumping powerful sounds into our hearts, you could sense the energy of the room elevating. It was intense, whether the music was from the Latin side, the funky side or the mellow side. Especially interesting was the exchange Jalidan Ruiz Castro and Baró began on a tune called “African Escape”. The free-flowing percussions were persistent throughout the tune and beautifully complemented by Robi Botos’ amazing talents on the keys and Baró’s command of the trumpet. It was later when I talked to Baró that I discovered the interesting story behind this particular tune. It was influenced by regular hospital visits he would make with his wife to monitor her pregnancy and listen to amplified sounds of their son’s heartbeat.

In fact, it is evident throughout Baró’s compositions, as it is I suppose with many musicians, that there is a story behind every tune. For Baró, this displays the many influences he has had as a musician and his ability to connect to the simplest of sounds and augment them with his talents and those of the musicians he works with. It speaks of his humility not to over-compose a tune and let the rhythm define itself.

“Wake-up Call” was influenced by some time Baró spent touring in Trinidad and is a fun breezy tune. Jeff King played some outstanding tenor sax on this one! The night moved from the Latin side to the funky side, from upbeat and lively compositions to mellow and introspective rhythms. As was the case when the band moved into a most passionate and funky tune called “Why not”. This was mysterious, deep and reflective. It was a dynamic balance of force and tranquility that Baró and the amazing Rich Brown on bass delivered impeccably. Another meditative tune followed called “Transitions” that began with smooth exchanges between Botos and Baró, and then moved to an upbeat groove made possible by the unrelenting hands, elbows, and even arms (it seems) of Ruiz Castro on percussions. “Unexpected Muse” closed the first set. It was the funky side of Alexis Baró, a tune full of energy and an unstoppable pounding from Chendy Leon on drums. And it left you wanting more.

As the band came back and played “Venus Atmosphere”, two thoughts came to mind: This tune should be on the next James Bond soundtrack! And, who is the guitarist? I had never heard of KC Roberts before and now I’m not sure why. Roberts’ skills were mean and authoritative and they made this first-rate tune even more electric.

The second set continued to prove the diversity of Baró’s influences and talents. In “Panorama” he brought back some Latin influences like the use of the clave throughout the tune. The title track “From the Other Side” was full of pulsating energy and soul with an all-out blast of power from the band. It was then that the crowd rose to their feet, moving to the beat, something that brought an infectious smile to Baró’s face. We danced through “Funky Bird”, a tune that sounded fitting for a James Brown song, until Baró closed his show with impassioned solos from each one of his band members.

This was a fun night. And there is no doubt that when you talk to Baró, you get the sense that this is what he lives for. His enthusiasm for the music he composes is evident. He is not afraid to step outside the box, to put the spotlight on his band members or to drive the music to the highest level.

Alexis Baró is one to watch, from this side or the other side.

Alexis Baró

Jeff King

Robi Botos
The musicians
Alexis Baró – trumpet
Jeff King – tenor sax
Robi Botos – keys
Rich Brown & Paco Luviano – bass
Chendy Leon & Otis Williams – drums
Jalidan Ruiz Castro – percussions
KC Roberts – electric guitar


We welcome your comments and feedback
Aline Badr
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
• •
The Live Music Report

| Home | Archives | CD Reviews | Photo Galleries | Concert Listings | Contact |

Please contact us to secure permission for use of any material found on this website.
© The Live Music Report – 2009