2004 CJA Network Newsletter Featured Interview
Drummer/ Percussionist Alex
when did you start playing percussion and drums?
Didn’t you study under Pablo Casals?
4 years of age when I started to play Drums & Perc and
it has not changed after all this years I still do the
same thing, Playing Drums and Percussion, maybe in a
higher level but still is the same approach. I was
born in a musical family, My father was a music teacher
and my 5 brothers are great musicians as well.
I was studying at the conservatory in San
Juan PR I played with the symphony orchestra under Don
Pablo Casals directions, when he conducted a
2) When did you start
developing an interest for Jazz?
When I was around 9 years of age in the small town where
I grow up, north of Lima there was a grocery store that
played the radio station “Radio El Sol” by lunch
time, they played Classical music, Bach, Chopin,
Strauss, Beethoven, Mozart etc,, also Some Cuban music,
like the “Sonora Matancera” Tito Puente, Perez
Prado, then jazz like Satchmo, Duke Ellington, Stan
Kenton, Dizzy Gillespie etc..
Who do you consider some of the main influences on your
writing and playing Jazz?
this are some of my favor musicians who influence my
writing and my playing: Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul,
Herbie Hancock, Freddy Hubbard and John Coltrane.
a drummer and percussionist also many others: Elvin
Jones, Tony Williams, Roy Haynes and Jack D’ Jhonette.
What are five Latin Jazz recordings you simply
couldn’t ‘live’ without?!!!
Tito Puente Goes Jazz, Irakere - Live at Montreaux,
Tolu – Bongo de VanGogh – Rumberos Poetry , Eddie
Palmieri - Masterpiece, Perez Prado and His Orchestra,
Descarga Boricua – esta Si Va, Los Hijos del Sol
– To My Country.
How did you meet up with the group Weather Report and
share with us what it was like being in one of the most
influential Jazz fusion bands ever?
living in Las Vegas and working at the International
Hilton Hotel in 1974 for about a Year and Don Alias
great Jazz musicians from NY saw me playing at a show
with the Temptations and he recommended me to Joe and
Wayne. They hired me without an audition to do a
European tour 1975. Later that year we recorded the
Black Market album.
started playing with Weather Reprot, it was like going to the
highest level of musical education for me. It was better
than any school I could have attended. My dream was
fulfilled, because I use to listen to
Wayne Shorter's playing and writing with Miles and Joe
and playing with Cannonball. When I first heard
them in a recording in 1971 with WR - that
music changed my way of listening to jazz, because
today the band is still very modern in sound in
harmonies and when Jaco and Manolo came to the
band the Heavy Weather Cd became a Classic jazz
album, now and for ever.
You also played in the Christian Jazz Group Koinonia
back in the early 1980’s with Abe Laboriel and others.
Share with us more about that group, what type of music
you played as well where you played. ( did you play in
churches. ect.?) ( Note: we still get inquiries on
whether Koinonia has CD’s available. They are out of
print but we are planning on playing some of the tracks
on Smooth Pizzazz Radio!)
I was still living in San Juan PR,
there was a prophesy
about Abe and I playing together, A person that new him
and I met there told me on the spot that if I get to
meet Abe we were going to play together because of
the similarity in how we play and feel music.
came to LA and I met Abe at the baked Potato and we
became very closed Friends and we did so many recordings
and starter the Koinonia Band, we played at the BP,
at churches, TV’s Programs, Universities etc,,, the
band was very popular in Scandinavia and tour very
successfully in Europe, I had the privilege to
play and record 3 Koinonia CD’s. The band has a very special
sound and style that I also like very much. Also a
special anointing of God is on the musicians and the
music as well; our Lord Jesus is still the main focus in
our lives! All the Glory and Honor to Him!
Tell us more about some of your more recent CD projects?
Didn't you receive a Grammy award for " Best
Traditional Tropical Album" back in 2000?
my son Javier we made a Production company and now we
are making our own products, mainly because I want
to play the music I love the most and we have 2
new Cds out and they’re available in my web page www.alexacuna.net Yes
I did received a Grammy nomination in the year 2000 for
my percussion Cd “Acuarelas de Tambores” Also
two nominations in the Latin Grammy in the year 2002 for
“Tolu” And “Los Hijos Del Sol” Recently
we just put out a new Cd, Called: “Alex Acuńa
& the Uknowns” No Accent. Also
I’m all ready preparing a Production of Latin Gospel
CD and working in a couple live DVD’s of musicals and
Teachings - Drums and percussion.
you also recently played on a CD with trumpeter Fletch
Wiley (now a CJA Network member!) The title is “
Ornament Of The Universe” and I believe it was
recorded “live” in a church! Tell us more
about what that was like!!
great; I met Fletch long time ago when we used to record
with Andrae Crouch around 1984. Later he became a
music minister and invited me to play in this recording
it was a great night – a live performance concert.
But in general I love to play with great musicians and
great people who are also sharing the same faith; mainly
because when we are in one accord musically and loving
and praising our Lord Jesus! That is definitely the best
Share with us your most memorable experience playing
Jazz at a church/concert and why.
I had been doing some music ministering in; Peru- San
Juan PR, Spain, France, New Jersey, Brazil and
Venezuela. Got the opportunity to play with great
players in these countries and churches, professionals
and worshipers and I’m glad that our God is calling
this great players to his kingdom, So we can give
our musical gifts back to him with excellence. (1st
Do you find a spiritual connection in playing,
arranging, and writing music? What kind of music
touches you down deep?
Music is definitely spiritual; music was made
to worship GOD almighty. when I was growing up I was a
self taught musician and I’m still learning every day
how to play, write, arrange music etc,,, Most of the
time, my compositions and improvisations have come to me
spontaneously, like all of the sudden. I also know that
it’s spiritual, because for a student like me, when I
write new melodies or songs they come to me very
different all the time. In different styles; like
when I was with Koinonia, I wrote according to that
style of music, with Tolu also in that style, with Los
Hijos Del Sol in my South American style and with the
Uknowns likewise. Because I desire to always
glorify him, I also receive this compositions and
then I know that it is from God. He is the main
inspiration in my playing, my compositions, my writing
that is what touches me down deeply!
What is your favorite church hymn and why?
Thy faithfulness, because by his mercy and grace I was
12) What are your
thoughts about the state of worship music today?
think every nation should worship God with the music he
has given to them, e.g. when in Africa play African
divine music on to the Lord! When you in South America
do the same with SA Music, etc.. The importance is that
each nation should play and worship GOD with their
heart, mind and soul!
It’s very exciting to see that Christian musicians are
starting to play more jazz and integrate the music into
worship settings in church. Do you get to play latin
jazz in church very often?
Probably I was one of the first Percussion Player
since the Andrae crouch dates and Koinonia times
that played the latin percussion instruments and latin
styles in the churches and also very often I do concert
at the Church on the Way in Van Nuys California where my
Pastor is Dr. Jack Hayford - he is also a
composer and a great mallet player. All my Christian
friends have a background in jazz and are great and
anointed players too’. (By
the way, please discern very carefully that what I’m
saying or commenting is not a self glorifying thing!)
Share with us a Bible verse that has helped shape your
outlook on Music in the church and why?
40:1-11 and 16.
it helped me to understand about my salvation my calling
and the purpose of my life; why I’m in this
world and for what reason God gave me the gift of music,
to be a true worshiper at all times.
want to be a worshiper like King David.
like the apostle Paul said; pray at all times and pray
say "Play and (practice without ceasing")!
to all the readers and musicians of this world!