For their spring break trip, the Kenyon Jazz Band, conducted by Professor of Music Ted Buehrer, traveled to Lima, Peru to perform and explore the country’s culture. The band usually travels to New Orleans every other year, but this year Buehrer contacted Peruvian jazz musician Gabriel Alegría ’93.
The two had attended Kenyon at the same time, and both played the trumpet. Together they planned the trip. Alegría is part of an Afro-Peruvian sextet, well-known in Peruvian jazz culture, and was a guide with knowledge of the city and its music.
The band booked gigs at some of the the best known jazz clubs in Lima. They performed three nights: two nights as a complete band and then in smaller combos. Each combo performed once. They played in two clubs, splitting the bill the first night with a local jazz group and the second night with a local high school band (which had played in Mount Vernon on a tour). “This was some of the best jazz I’d ever heard,” Sam Achtermann ’20 said, describing some of the other performers that shared the stage with Kenyon’s group. “They had tap dancing, too, and a lot of more traditional dancers.”
The third night, one of the combos played, along with several soloists, including Buehrer, who was asked to play a solo accompaniment for an original tune by Alegría called “Diablo en Brooklyn.” Associate Professor of Music Ross A. Feller attended the trip and played the baritone saxophone. Local dancers accompanied Feller’s performance. “There were these dancers with devil masks in front of stage,” Feller said. “The musicians were invited to interact with them.”
The program was split into old-school jazz, with songs such as “Freckle Face” by Count Basie, and a modern arrangement of “15 Step,” by Radiohead.
The trip offered students an opportunity to experience a style that is different from American jazz. “Each country has its own approach and its own jazz style,” Feller said. The Peruvian style is more rhythmic and uses many percussion instruments native to Peru, as well as cross rhythms. It also lacks the same emphasis on fast chord changes found in other styles of jazz, like bebop.
“That was interesting to encounter, a new approach to playing jazz,” Feller said.