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Alex Cuba Band - A background


Compiled by Jack Foley (using material from the Alex Cuba website)

HE MAY just have recently turned 30, but Alexis Puentes can probably be described as a veteran.

The Cuban-born multi-instrumentalist, singer, and producer is unique in many ways, possessing both an encyclopaedic knowledge of the indigenous genres of the Caribbean island - from Afro-Cuban rumba to musica campesina - and a mature understanding of contemporary jazz and Latin pop.

Alexis writes and arranges his own songs in a style that draws on all of the above, singing in what can only described as a lightly-smoky voice, while playing electric and stand-up bass, acoustic guitar, tres, and a wealth of percussion.

Born in 1974 with his non-identical twin, Adonis, Alexis grew up in the town of Artemisa, some 60km from Havana.

His father, Valentín Puentes, was a guitarist by trade, and so Alexis and his brother were completely immersed in the very best of Cuban music from an early age, becoming members of the family band from the time they were tots.

Alexis subsequently learned to play guitar at the age of six, and took up the bass at 14.

After finishing school, Alexis completed a spell in the Army, before then teaming up with his father and brother in the quintet Los Puentes, playing mainly Cuban songs.

Yet as his passion and interest for music grew, Alexis ventured abroad, touring Canada for the first time in 1995.

When he returned, Alexis worked in the jazz band, Temperamento, with ace pianist, Roberto Fonseca (now a member of the Buena Vista Social Club Band), before moving to Canada in 1999.

Not long afterwards, Alexis teamed up with his brother, Adonis, who was living in Canada, to form the Alex Cuba Band, playing mainly Cuban songs, with some influences from their new homeland.

In 2000, the twins became The Puentes Brothers and recorded the superb Morumba Cubana, which included seven original songs from Alexis, and two co-written with Adonis.

The album received a Juno nomination in 2001 and garnered both a West Coast Music Award and a National Independent Music Award.

The Puentes Brothers toured Canada, playing all the major folk and jazz festivals, and winning widespread acclaim and a legion of fans.

Yet the ever-ambitious duo then decided to put the band on hold for a while in early 2003 and parted company to embark on solo projects.

For Alexis, this meant a return to the Alex Cuba Band, which subsequently produced the excellent debut album, Humo de Tabaco, which was recorded in Havana's celebrated Egrem Studios and encompasses many of the influences that Alexis has experienced during his formative years.

Humo de Tabaco is rightly described on Alexis' website as 'the playful sound of a young master at work - forging new songs and sounds that at once respect the rich traditions of his homeland and bring them into the new century'.

Expect to be hearing a lot more from Alexis Puentes or Alex Cuba in the years to come.

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