Alex Cuba broke the language barrier with his jazzy and soulful pop music — and even gave Red Deer fans a few tips on becoming more Latino.
The two-time Juno Award winner, who took the name of his birth country, didn’t feel the need to explain many of the songs he sang at the Elks Lodge on Sunday — even though only two people in the room raised their hands when he asked who could understand Spanish.
His song’s lyrics didn’t seem to matter much. Nearly 100 music fans just enjoyed grooving to his Afro-Cuban rhythms that recall the kind of laid-back, funky pop tunes that Marvin Gaye or Lionel Ritchie once sang.
Cuba, who grew up as a Michael Jackson fan, has also been compared to Stevie Wonder, John Mayer and Carlos Santana.
But Sunday’s crowd wasn’t comparing — they were appreciating Cuba’s cool blend of lilting love songs and up-tempo numbers, by dancing, clapping, and singing along.
The musician, who cultivates a ‘70s retro look with his signature ‘fro and sideburns, appeared on stage with two other accomplished musicians, bassist David Marion and drummer Max Senitt.
The trio kicked off the concert, sponsored by the Central Music Festival Society, with the funky Vampiro, then quickly moved to the up-tempo Tu Boca Loquita, about a guy’s obsession with a woman’s lips.
Cuba gave his Anglo fans a primer on Cuban pickup lines, like “Baby, if you cook the way you dance, I will eat everything on my plate” in his song, Pirapo.
He also got the crowd singing Si Pero No (which means yes and no), along to a relaxed mellow guitar groove.
A few emboldened female listeners later also sang the ya-ya chorus of his hit, Amor Infinito, which many recognized from play lists on CKUA and CBC Radio.
“What? Men don’t sing in Red Deer?” Cuba jokingly asked to prompt more male participation.
The singer who grew up as Alex Puentes, learned to play every type of music, from traditional to fusion.
But since marrying and moving to Canada, the 35-year-old Smithers, B.C.-resident has become known for ditching the blaring horns and furious tempos of Cuban music for a mellower funk-pop-flavoured vibe.
Cuba, who plays impressive improvisational jazz guitar, really wowed the crowd with his weaving rhythms in De Camino, and also the catchy pop tune, Que Pasa Lola, from his latest album, simply called Alex Cuba.
At one point, when the dance floor was fairly full of stiff-hipped dancers, Cuba felt the need to give a quick lesson on moving like a Latino. “You move your hips like this,” he said, showing the crowd his rotating rump.
By Jove, I think most of them got it.
Cuba, who later received a standing ovation, told the audience he’d love to return to Red Deer someday.
Something tells me, Red Deer would love to have him back.