The incredible journey of Alex Acuña has seen the renowned drummer-percussionist travel from his small rural hometown in Peru to being a first-call session drummer in the country’s capital city, Lima, then touring the United States with mambo king Pérez Prado, gigging in Las Vegas with Elvis Presley and ultimately touring internationally with Weather Report, the premiere fusion band of the mid-1970s. An in-demand Los Angeles session musician for decades, he has appeared on nearly 900 studio records and movie soundtracks while also releasing half a dozen albums under his own name.
His latest as a leader, the dynamic Gifts, reunites him with his musical cohorts from The Unknowns — Venezuelan keyboardist Otmaro Ruiz, Peruvian guitarist Ramón Stagnaro and New York City-born, Puerto-Rican-bred bassist John Peña — that band that Acuña’s led on 1990’s Thinking of You and 2005’s No Accent.
Joined by Peruvian tenor sax powerhouse Lorenzo Ferrero, this gifted and versatile crew runs the stylistic gamut from funk to fusion, soul-jazz, ambient, Latin and Brazilian flavored jazz on Gifts. “These guys can play more than one style,” Acuña said. “And I like to play with musicians that I don’t have to tell them what to play. It’s fun to play with them. They understand my musical lingo.”