An unexpected slice of psychedelic Caribbean jazz, with acoustic piano, steel drum and tripped-out conga solos. The soundtrack of that crazy dream where you hang out with Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock and Mongo Santamaría, sipping up the juice of a freshly squeezed watermelon, under the palm trees of a beautiful beach in Port of Spain.
Building on the success of his Fumaca Preta and Conjunto Papa Upa projects, and a stint playing percussion for Altin Gun, Alex Figueira leads his “one-man funk band” motto into uncharted territory. Constantly looking for ways to expand his sonic palette and musical abilities, he takes on the self-imposed challenge of creating a more danceable and decidedly Caribbean approach to jazz. The result, for those familiar with his output, delivers on all fronts.
“Juicy” is groovy, catchy, trippy and leaves you wondering what exactly it is you're listening to. Drop this song at the beginning or end of any session and watch people come to you with a mixture of awe and joy, wondering which record this is. It will equally please casual dancers, obsessive vinyl heads and anybody looking for music that defies classification.
The flip side showcases once again Figueira’s irreverent production style. Imagine Jamaican melodica icon Augustus Pablo, calypso jazz godfather Ciryl Diaz and Brazilian legend Jackson do Pandeiro hanging around barely lit bars of questionable reputation in an unknown city, randomly placed in the extensive Kingston - Salvador da Bahia axis. They meet a group of lifelong skateboarders and receive a stoic sounding piece of advice that lifts their moods significantly: “to learn, you have to fall”. Words repeated incessantly since the dawn of time are delivered here, most likely for the very first time, over a swinging mix of melancholic calypso jazz, traditional forró, roots rockers reggae and guaguancó.
The unlikely mix of Latin American genres gets an unexpected Afro-Cuban twist towards the end and Figueira takes over the mic to speak directly to the listener. “You thought it was instrumental, right? Haha none of that”. Alex explains, “I was here mixing this song and when this part came I thought, what this needs is a little chorus”, emphasizing that it must be a “very tasty” one.
Lastly, he explains the origin of what he is about to sing, revisiting his childhood in Caracas “when I was a kid, the oldest skaters, those who did all the tricks, used to tell us, “to learn, you have to fall””, before the chorus break out, raising the song’s spiciness to its maximum heat reminding you how essential it is to “learn from your mistakes”.