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Quito, Ecuador | Established. Jan 01, 2007 | SELF

Quito, Ecuador | SELF
Established on Jan, 2007
Band Latin Acoustic




"A Door to Ecuador"

Alex Alvear has always known where home is. He just wasn't sure how to get there.

Now, more than two decades after he left his native Ecuador and settled in Boston, the bassist, singer and composer has found the compass he needs: his own music.

"Revisiting my country's music has shined a different light on it all for me," said Alvear, who celebrates the release of his new CD, "Equatorial," with a concert Thursday at the South End's Center for Latino Arts, where he serves as performance and production manager and is the longtime producer of its Cafe Teatro series.

Alvear's journey began in Ecuador's capitol, Quito, where he grew up in the '70s and '80s playing rock and ignoring everything Ecuadorean. His desire to leave his country was kicked into high gear by an unsettling drama: In December 1985, he was kidnapped off the street by the secret police of Leon Febres Cordero, Ecuador's right-wing president at the time.

Alvear calls the experience a very small thing compared to what others went through. He was released within a day when the secret police realized he wasn't a member of a guerrilla group. But the experience hardened his resolve to make a life - and music - elsewhere.

"It happened around the same time that I was making my mind up about moving on," said Alvear, whose songs back then didn't shy away from questioning government authority.

After a stop in Baltimore, Alvear (pronounced ahl-VAY-ar) came to Boston in 1987 and enrolled at Berklee College of Music. He quickly became a staple of the local Cuban, salsa and jazz scenes, helping found the city's hottest Afro-Latin bands, including Ache and Mango Blue, and singing lead in Timba Loca.

Even though he was immersing himself fully in Boston's diverse music community, Alvear still felt there was something missing in his music. He finally found it by looking farther south.

"Equatorial" is Alvear's take on some of the music that was swirling around him but that he ignored while living in Ecuador. With help from international guest stars including Paquito D'Rivera, Marta Gomez and Claudio Ragazzi, he puts a fresh yet respectful face on traditional rhythms such as SANJUANITO, ALBAZO and YUMBO. From emotional PASILLOS - Ecuador's melancholic equivalent to blues - to folkloric songs dusted by airy Andean melodies, "Equatorial" is a reflective look at Alvear's deepest roots.

"I've been making a career of out of playing music from other places like Puerto Rico and Cuba," said Alvear. "Not to underestimate the love that I feel for those musics, but there can be a stigma, as in `Oh, that guy plays well, but he's not Cuban or not Puerto Rican. With this music now, I have no apologies. I have nothing that can be held against me. It's a very empowering feeling. This CD is just me. It's very much music by birthright." - Boston Herald

"Alex Alvear Equatorial"

A native of Ecuador now dividing his time between Quito and Boston, Alex Alvear folds elements of Andean folk traditions into a lush, acoustic-guitar layered sound - a prime backdrop for his passionate vocals, which call up the spirits of troubadours past. A musical treat and a wonderful introduction to Ecuadorian music. - Global Rhythm Magazine

"Alex Alvear Equatorial"

Alex Alvear’s new album is an extremely interesting listen and look into a musical culture that has yet to be explored in depth. A transplant from Ecuador after being publicly detained by the country’s secret police, Alvear now embraces the musical culture of his country on the album Equatorial. Though influenced by various musical styles throughout his home country, this album’s sounds will remind listeners of quite a few different styles resulting in an intriguing release.
One can definitely tell that some of this music has a distinctive South American vibe to it, but Equatorial also has numerous other influences on it as well. At times the various wind instruments used give the music an almost Native American like vibe. It’s an interesting North meets South sound, and it is sure to gain Alvear a significant fan base. There is also a hint of some jazz influences as well, making this release a bit different from your average South American album.

Though the focus is mostly on the instrumental arrangements, there are several songs that feature vocals. Alex Alvear is the lead vocalist on almost all of the songs that feature singing, and he has a great voice that adds even further melody to the music. In addition to that, Alvear enlisted the help of several female singers throughout the course of Equatorial, which sounds great.

Equatorial is an album worth experiencing. Mixing in his South American roots with hints of other genres, Alex Alvear has produced an album that has enough Latin flair to appeal to fans of that style while progressively incorporating other styles that will appeal to fans of other genres. Even if you’ve been listening to Latin or South American music nonstop recently, take a chance to listen to Equatorial.
- Cosmos Gaming

"Roots, exploration and nostalgia in Alvear's new CD"


With Equatorial, Alvear has found a new way home, offering a contribution to and leaving a mark in contemporary Ecuadorian music. Andean, indigenous and Spanish influences are carefully integrated in a contemporary palette of memorable sounds. The result is an intimate collection of melodies and textures that accompany Alvear's soothing voice. Alvear has created a bridge from America to a small and underexposed nation with a rich and diverse musical legacy. - El Mundo Newspaper (Boston)


"Equatorial" - Self-released
"Immigrant Blues" - Self-released
"MANGO" - Self-released



Opening a Door to Ecuadorian Music:
Alex Alvear’s Equatorial Brings Home
One Step Closer

Getting kidnapped by the Ecuadorian secret police was the last “kick in the butt” for musician Alex Alvear. He left for the U.S. with $70 in his pocket and started a new journey far from home. The release of Equatorial, an album that was a breakthrough for modern Ecuadorian music, was Alvear'’s connection to his native roots. The Andean, indigenous, and Spanish roots show through in a gently arranged modern palette of sounds. The result is a sweet collection of tunes with beautiful vocals, a lilting groove, and timeless acoustic melodies.

Like many middle-class kids growing up in Quito, Ecuador (and thanks to a three hundred-year colonial legacy left by Spain and cultural alienation instigated by commercialism and American pop culture), Alvear hated everything Ecuadorian, he could name and recognize any rock band from the ’60’s through the ’80’s but could not hum one Ecuadorian song. He began playing rock ’n’ roll to later discover not only an array of Latin American musical styles but embracing Ecuadorian music without shame or prejudice. Fully adopting the rock rebel lifestyle, he lived off of an alley in a “hole in the wall” and used music to speak out against the government’s unjust practices. While still in Ecuador he co-founded the ground-breaking Promesas Temporales, a group that incorporated Rock and Jazz elements into traditional music, recording only 1,000 LPs at the time and later becoming an icon in the development of Ecuadorian music.

As he became exposed to jazz and fusion, he wanted to learn more, but there were few opportunities at home so he started saving money with the hope of studying abroad. In December of 1985, he was kidnapped in broad daylight by the secret police of then right-wing president León Febres Cordero. His captors erroneously thought he was linked to a growing guerilla group, but because of their imprudent daylight capture, public protest led to Alvear’s freedom by the end of the day. Less than 2 weeks later Alvear bought a one-way ticket to the US. Soon after, Alvear found himself enrolled at the Berklee School of Music and launched into a career in Afro-Latin funk, Latin jazz, and salsa music in the Boston area. He recently realized, however, that something was missing.

“"When I wrote a recent pasillo [an Ecuadorian song form], I said, ‘Hold it, I already have six pasillos and all these sanjuanitos and albazos… this could be an album!” “I also realized I had come full circle. All these years, I played Cuban music, but I’'m not Cuban. I played Brazilian music, but I'm not Brazilian. I played North American music, but I’m not really North American. I had been writing Ecuadorian songs for myself, as a way to remember. And now this is what I want to do. This finally makes sense with who I am. explains Alvear”

Anyone who has heard Andean music will hear familiar elements on Alvear’'s Equatorial, from pentatonic melodic motifs to Indigenous flutes like the dulcet bamboo quena and Ecuador’s unique brand of panpipes played by Kichwa master flutist Roberto Cachimuel, from the syncopated beats of the sanjuanito cadence to the rhythmic use of acoustic guitar. But the most immediate reaction to Alvear’'s 2-decade slow sonic brew is that of timelessness and melodic soulfulness. Just as Peru’s Susana Baca and Colombia’s Totó La Momposina researched and updated the roots music of their homelands to reach new audiences, Alvear delicately brings in elements like jazz harmonies, tango instrumentation, Brazilian sensibilities, funky bass lines, and pop melodic structure to build a bridge between old and new, sometimes even sounding Beatlesesque.

An early turning point in Alvear’s appreciation of Ecuador’s musical heritage occurred when he accompanied a filmmaker friend to the pueblo of Peguche in the northern province of Ecuador called Imbabura. “I brought my guitar and as soon as we stepped out of the van we were in the midst of a huge Indian celebration,” recalls Alvear. “It’s a weeklong solstice party they have every July with all this symbolism everywhere and, while it was officially the celebration of Saint John (San Juan, thus the name for sanjuanito), it had more to do with ancient beliefs than with Western religion. I had envisioned this little getaway, writing another pop ballad under a tree somewhere; I had no idea what I was getting myself into.”

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