Compiled by Jack Foley (using material from the Alex Cuba
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
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
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
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.