"Sandstorm" reviewed in "The WholeNote" Magazine - "Jazz and Improvised"
By Colin Story
Released in August on G-THREE Music, Sandstorm is the newest album from Havana-born, Toronto-based trumpet player Alexis Baro. An accomplished musician, Baro’s résumé includes performances with a wide range of artists, such as saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, organist Joey DeFrancesco and producer David Foster. Inspired by Baro’s experiences living in a big city, Sandstorm is framed as a celebration of “the vibrant energy of diverse cultures living together in a rapidly changing urban environment.” Nine of the album’s eleven compositions are Baro’s; of the remaining two, one is a reworking of the traditional Latin American lullaby Drume Negrita, and the other is a cover of The Beatles’ Come Together. In addition to Baro, Sandstorm features keyboardists Jeremy Ledbetter and Anthony Brancati, bassists Yoser Rodriguez, Roberto Riveron and Andrew Stewart, and drummers Amhed Mitchel, Anthony Daniel, and Larnell Lewis.
After an exploratory, searching intro, in which Baro demonstrates the range of his melodic and timbral control, Sandstorm’s hard-driving title track begins with a repeated 5/8 motif that is woven throughout the song. The B Side of A, one of the album’s funkier entries, sees Baro playing with a filtered, electric trumpet sound while trading with Brancati, with a strong drum solo from Lewis. Baro’s trumpet glides smoothly atop the programmed drums in Drume Negrita, and Come Together is arranged with a sophisticated, understated groove. Central to Sandstorm is Baro’s sound: warm, articulate and confident in both the lower and upper registers, reassuring and surprising throughout the album.
"Sugar Rush" reviewed in "The WholeNote" Magazine - "Jazz and Improvised"
By Leslie Mitchell-Clarke
Without question, trumpeter/flugelhornist Alexis Baro is a propelling and innovative force in the contemporary jazz/Latin jazz scene. His warm, round, energy-infused sound is immediately recognizable, and with the release of his new CD, Baro has clearly come into his own as both a consummate musician and as a composer. All of the material on Sugar Rush has been written and arranged by Baro, who not only freely taps into sacred earth rhythms, but fully utilizes the terrific musicality of his ensemble. The muy picante septet includes goosebump-raising musicians Adrean Farrugia on acoustic piano, Jeremy Ledbetter on keyboards, Yoser Rodriguez and Roberto Riveron on bass, Amhed Mitchel on drums, Jeff King on tenor sax and Jorge Luis “Papiosco” Torres on percussion.
Standouts include: Sigueme (Follow Me) – relentless pumpitude, burning horn lines and high octane piano and bass work define this track. King’s sax is simultaneously rhythmic and fluid, and Baro easily soars into the sonic stratosphere, while still remaining umbilically attached to the heartbeat of Mother Earth. La Guarida (The Lair) is a bop-ish exploration of ultimate coolness, with Baro’s purity of tone, off-the-hook chops and informed harmonic choices resounding throughout – almost reminiscent of a young Freddy Hubbard – and Farrugia’s piano solo is a sonic cascade of beauty and power. Also, Sugar Rush (the aptly named title track) envelops the listener with an onslaught of percussive and irresistible musical sweetness. Drummer Mitchel and percussionist “Papiosco” work in symmetry, mercilessly driving the band down the camino with the most relentless Latin grooves.
This well-conceived, well-recorded project is a masterful mélange of superb contemporary jazz and indigenous Latin sensibilities, and is arguably one of the most important Canadian jazz recordings of the year.
"Guilty Pleasure: reviewed in "All About Jazz"
Alexis Baro featured in "JAZZ IN THE ISLANDS" Magazine
Alexis Baro is one of Toronto's premiere trumpeter players. This versatile trumpeter was born into a musical family in Havana, Cuba and started playing trumpet at an early age ultimately completing his musical education at the presidgious Amadeo Roldan Music Conservatorty in Havana and receiving a teaching certification. While in school he became a member of the Buena Vista Social Club
superstar Omara Portuondo's band, and later played lead trumpet
"Guilty Pleasure": reviewed in "Earshot Magazine"
The Album “Guilty Pleasures” is a treasured mixture of composer Alexis Baro’s compositions performed on Trumpet and Flugelhorn. The music is a finely crafted combination of Afro-Jazz, ballad style, and Beguine. Alexis Baro is a three-time nominee for the Canadian National Jazz Award in the "Best Trumpet Player" category.
He began playing trumpet at an early age and ended his studies as a certified instructor from the renowned Amadeo Roland Music Institute in Havana, Cuba. He relocated to Canada in 2001 and has since worked in a variety of genres including Straight Ahead Jazz, R&B, Funk, Calypso, Latin, Dance and Pop. He was as a member for many years of the Canadian hard bop band "Kollage" led by the Canadian legendary jazz drummer Archie Alleyne and saxophonist Doug Richardson. He was also a featured soloist alongside Paquito D'Riviera on Hilario Duran's Juno Award winning and Grammy nominated album "From the Heart" (Alma). Baro has also performed with a variety of artists such as Omara Portuondo (Bueno Vista Social Club), David Foster, Nikky Yanofsky, Pacquito D'Riviera, Paul Shaffer, Tom Jones, Dr. Lonnie Liston Smith, John Secada, The Temptations, Jimmy Bosch and many more.
In this album, Baro is joined by several extremely talented musicians who he musically interacts with throughout the album . His orchestration of the charts blends skillfully to provide a platform for easy listening music and to highlight the work of the other performers.
Baro himself relates on his web page that the music is soulful, laid back and relaxing. It has an enchanting sound that only musicians of this caliber can convey to listeners. In this regard, he has created a style of playing which is unique and moreover original. His honest musicianship is clearly evident on every segment of this disc. His innovative, thoughtful ideas are a constant reminder of his command of the horns along with his expressionism. Baro’s jazz phrasing and the muted segments are a joy to listen to and come through clear and bright.
Within “Guilty Pleasures” Alexis Baro has made a major contribution to jazz performance in Canada. His work as a performer and composer on this album along with his cast of headline players is a demonstration that first-rate music is alive in Canada.
1. “Reencuentro” 2 “Pensendo En Ti” 3. “The Dance” 4. “Evening Rain” 5. “Intermood 6. “Koytus” 7. “Amante-Loverman” 8. “Eres” 9. “African Prince” 10.“Guilty Pleasure”
By Jack Kopstien
Dec 10, 2015 Earshot Magazine
"Alexis Baro returns home with latest album Sugar Rush"
By Brigido Francisco Galvan Ph.D. Ethnomusicology
Independent Researcher, Freelance Musician, Music Educator
The evening of Wednesday, September 7th, trumpet and flugelhorn player, Alexis Baro will be officially releasing his 5th album, Sugar Rush at Lula Lounge. An alumnus of Cuba’s legendary, Amadeo Roldán School of Music, Baro belongs to the cream of Afro-Cuban jazz virtuosi who in recent years, left their native Cuba to make Toronto their home.
Since first arriving in Canada in 2001 he has pursued new musical endeavours at a breakneck pace. He quickly became a much sought-after session player, touring nationally and internationally and keeping one of the busiest schedules in Toronto. He’s recorded and/or toured with David Foster, Paul Shaffer, Nikky Yanofski, Tom Jones, Paquito D’Rivera, Andrea Bocelli, Lonnie Smith, and Omara Portuondo from the Buena Vista Social Club band, Afro-Cuban All-Stars and Cubanismo, and this is naming only a few.
Still, Baro’s life as an artist in his own right has kept prolifically and successfully apace with four album releases, three nominations in the Canadian National Jazz awards for “Best Trumpet Player,” and a Gold Medal from the Global Music Awards for jazz under his belt. Not surprisingly, in 2015 Alexis Baro was recognized in Billboard Magazine’s “Emerging Artists” section with a feature interview.
The keyword for Alexis Baro continuing success is not simply virtuosity but also versatility. His musicianship and personality have allowed him to make himself at home in so many different musical worlds, including that of swing, funk, pop, R&B, Latin jazz, fusion, salsa and, of course, timba, Afro-Cuban jazz and traditional Cuban music. Baro explained to me that he always keeps his ears wide open, absorbing everything within earshot.
He credits his musicality to Pueblo Nuevo, the tight-knit barrio where he grew up and has been home to the most remarkable number of internationally influential musicians to come out of Havana. Sugar Rush is the creative product of Baro’sPueblo Nuevo Jazz Project. In a musical sense, the project is a return, as he put it, ‘to his ‘hood,’ which is also to say, a return to his Afro-Cuban roots. As Baro clarified to me, the phrase “sugar rush,” refers to therush of adrenaline Afro-Cuban slaves needed to run away from the sugar cane plantations as their white masters with their dogs followed closely on their heels.
Rhythmically, Sugar Rush pays homage to some of the most important Afro-Cuban genres, includingrumba, the abakua traditions, timba, and danzón. The jazz production strategy of recording the whole ensemble live in the studio could not be more evident in this album. What brings it to life is spontaneous musical interaction, particularly between the rhythm section and lead instruments during the improvisation sections. It also helps that the ensemble has worked together extensively and, so, they are more than just acquainted musically. Except for Caminando Por La Vida,” all tracks are performed with a quintet formation. It is an impressive cast of masters: along with Baro on trumpet and flugelhorn; Adrean Farrugia plays piano in five of the nine tracks; Jeremy Ledbetter takes over the keyboard on four of them; Jeff King plays tenor sax in all but one track in which Luis Deniz plays alto; Roberto Riverón and Yoser Rodriguez share duties on bass; Mitchel Amhed plays drums and Jorge Luis “Papiosco” percussion.
Melody and groove are key elements in this album, even in the solos. Yes you can sit down and listen, but you may also want to dance. Uptempo tracks like, “Sigue mé,” “Sugar Rush,” “Inner Face,” “La Guarida” and “El Camino” contain moments of sheer virtuosity without turning into abstractions or cerebral exercises. You will not hear Baro play everything he can play in every solo or every piece, nor hit every hight note I have heard him reach. There are also no overextended solos in any of the pieces, which usually drive listeners to distraction. These are very articulate improvisers who actually have something to say, and they don’t need five minutes each to say it.
“Paseo Por El Prado,” is a beautiful danzón, one of the first urban genres to emerge in Cuba at the turn of the 20th century. One of my favourites is “Caminando Por La Vida,” a reflective piece performed as a trio. The absence of a bass player and the sparsity of the texture are two the elements that give this piece its character. And it is Baro on the flugelhorn, supported by Jeremy Ledbetter on keyboard and “Papiosco,” laying down a rumba guaguancó rhythm on percussion.
This album is bound to make waves in the world of jazz and beyond. Welcome back home Alexis! We hope you stay a while in Pueblo Nuevo before you embark in new musical explorations.
Sugar Rush is being released on the Toronto-based G-THREELabel and will be available on iTunes and Amazon in the coming weeks. Copies can be purchased at Lula Lounge on Sept 7
Cuban trumpeter emigrated to Canada in 2001, Alexis Baro made himself appreciated in various contexts: from Latin music to jazz to rhythm & blues, funk and pop music.
From 2005 to 2007 he was named the best trumpet player from the Canadian National Jazz Award and in his recent career has worked with Paquito D'Rivera, Omara Portuondo, David Foster, Gino Vannelli, Tom Jones, the Temptations group. In his fourth album as a leader confirms the versatile instrumentalist and transversal skills, privileging an elegant and refined modern mainstream, tinged here and there with Latin rhythms colors. The tracks wind their way mainly to slow time, ranging from catchy bolero ( "Rencuentro") to jazz ballad ( "The Dance," "Evening Rain") to introduce atmosphere between rap and fusion ( "Eres").
Over all stands his trumpet, the clear impression is davisiana when using a damper which does not: a pathos sounds and a cantabile phrasing that knows how to move safely in the rare moments incisors. Supported by colleagues who share musical values, Baro moves with exquisite sensitivity and dreamy lyricism, focusing on sound and lyricism.
By ANGELO LEONARDI
Published: March 18, 2016 in Italian for "All About Jazz"