In the midst of Havana’s Jazz Plaza festival in December, I took a break with Yosvany Terry, who has lived in New York City since 1999 and whose music helps define a cutting edge there. He grew up in the Camagüey province, where his father, Eladio “Don Pancho” Terry, was a violinist with Maravilla de Florida’s Charanga Orchestra and a master of the chekeré, the beaded gourd used for percussion. Yosvany and I drove to Havana’s Mariano neighborhood, a quiet, almost rural area where his father and mother now live. There, Don Pancho sang old boleros while Yosvany played piano. Don Pancho demonstrated the “ritmo guiro,” an innovation of his that lent a more folkloric flavor to the charanga sound by the highlighting the raspy sound of the guiro, a serrated gourd that is scraped with a stick. “All of this music,” Yosvany said, “has influenced my music.”
And much more, not to mention Terry’s work with saxophonist Steve Coleman.
Bohemian Trio, Terry’s latest endeavor, is a collective with pianist Orlando Alonso and cellist Yves Dharamraj, in which Terry plays soprano and alto saxophone and chekeré.
Here’s my Wall Street Journal review of the group’s genre-defying debut CD, “Okónkolo.” Continue reading “Bohemian Trio Leaps Across Borders”
Not Their Fathers' Afro Latin Jazz: Yosvany Terry & Arturo O'Farrill
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The most exciting storyline right now in New York City jazz and the most invigorating music most often comes from players with Afro Latin roots. That fact, and the specifics of these musical projects, says much about a broadened landscape for what used to be called (but thankfully no longer can) “Latin jazz,” its elemental value to whatever we call “jazz,” and to the cultural melting pot that is New York. In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, my review piece discusses new CDs from alto saxophonist and composer Yosvany Terry (who also plays a mean chekeré) and pianist and composer Arturo O’Farrill, whose Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra is my favorite large ensemble in this city. In my 900 or so words, I couldn’t possibly do justice to the fine details of each recording—the breadth of the compositions, created by composers with roots throughout this hemisphere, on O’Farrill’s “The Offense of the Drum,” for instance, or the all-star pedigrees of the players in Terry’s Ye-Dé-Gbe group on his “New Throned King” that lend wonderful cohesion to his blend of arará ritual (from the former West African kingdom of Dahomey) and modern jazz improvisation.
Terry has digested the full range of alto-sax jazz language; his horn sounds with an elegant force and forms an unusual complement to the sung chants from Pedrito Martinez, who is both a master of Afro Cuban folkloric vocal tradition and, to me, one of the world’s great voices in any idiom. He’s also a master percussionist who here functions as part of trio of masters (with Román Díaz, whose brilliance I know well, and Sandy Pérez, who I hadn’t heard before. Listening to Terry’s new CD was a revelation for me, for both the further ascent it represents in terms of his talent and for its reflection of his deepened investigation into arará, a tradition that is not so well known in the U.S. Catching the CD-release performance at Manhattan’s Jazz Standard was an even more stirring experience, with dancer Francisco Barroso, in traditional costumes, bringing home the fact that this music is meant for dance, and has a functional value. In Terry’s hands, modern jazz is a ritual music, and traditions like arará invite sophisticated innovation.
O’Farrill’s CD is an outgrowth of his orchestra’s concert season, which is the best if not the only place to hear newly commissioned works from Afro Latin composers for big band. Good as O’Farrill’s title composition for this CD is, there’s an even better one O’Farrill presented recently during an Apollo Theater concert called “The Afro Latin Jazz Suite”: Through trumpet fanfares and other details, O’Farrill made reference to “The Afro Cuban Jazz Suite,” a landmark work by his father, the late Chico O’Farrill, within a piece that exploded a previous generation’s aesthetic in something beyond genres borders.
You can find my review of these two new CDs here, or simply continue reading:
Continue reading “Not Their Fathers' Afro Latin Jazz: Yosvany Terry & Arturo O'Farrill”
Dancing With Eleggua, Weekly, at Minton's in Harlem
I’d not yet been to Minton’s, the new supper club that revives a storied Harlem name on 118th Street, until this week.
I can tell you that the cuisine, under the direction of executive chef Alexander Smalls, is both fine and creative. But a new series “Jazz at the Crossroads: The Dance of Eleggua,” which continues each Tuesday night through August, was the real lure for me.
This past Tuesday, alto saxophonist Yosvany Terry and his brother, bassist Yunior Terry, who were born in the town of Florida, in Cuba’s Camagüey province, and live in New York City, performed in a group that showcased their father, Eladio “Don Pancho” Terry. The elder Terry is a violinist the founder and director of the “Orquesta Maravillas de Florida,” an important band in the Cuban charanga style. He is, perhaps most notably, a master of the chekeré, the beaded gourd used for percussion; in his hands, it can direct a group with the authority and flair of drummer Roy Haynes’s trap set. The group at Minton’s performed a mixture of traditional charanga tunes and more modern jazz, some drawn from the books of Yosvany Terry’s brilliant and forward-leaning bands. Yet this was no survey or fusion; the set was an example of how Afro Latin music, grounded in traditional rhythms and flecked with modern jazz’s full stylistic palette, can flow pretty much wherever it wants without losing its spiritual heft and sense of musical purpose.
That’s what this new series is about, according to Dita Sullivan, whose recent credits along similar lines “New Dimensions in Jazz” and “A Cuban Drum Series,” both produced for Manhattan’s Jazz Standard. Continue reading “Dancing With Eleggua, Weekly, at Minton's in Harlem”