Caffeinated jazz from a powerhouse Afro-Cuban band.
Yosvany Terry Quintet
Caffeinated jazz from a powerhouse Afro-Cuban band.
The son of Cuba’s greatest chekeré player and beloved violinist, young Yosvany prepared himself for the world stage at the prestigious National School of Arts (ENA) and Amadeo Roldán Conservatory in Havana. Apparently it worked, for his saxophone and chekeré talents have since been in constant demand by artists in the Afro-Cuban world (Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Eddie Palmieri, Chucho Valdéz) and in the American music scene (Taj Mahal, Branford Marsalis, Paul Simon). Terry’s own music is a dynamic force, celebrating both the Cuban traditions of his childhood and the cutting edge of Latin jazz that he’s helping to forge in New York and beyond, through fiery grooves, hypnotic chants, and commanding melodies. He and his bandmates are impressive musicians in their prime who are sure to deliver something fresh with an almost physical urgency.
Yosvany Terry, saxes and chekeré
Yunior Terry, bass
Michael Rodriguez, trumpet
Manuel Valera, piano
Obed Calvaire, drums
These activities are supported, in part, with funds provided by the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), the California Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
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Cuban-born saxophonist and composer Yosvany Terry is at the crest of a wave of Latin American musicians transforming the US jazz scene, and his powerhouse quintet serves as essential vehicle for further exploration. Blending a verdant continuum of influences from West Africa, Cuba, Haiti and beyond, Terry has forged one of the most ambitious and consequent cross-cultural visions on the contemporary scene. Though he draws on sounds from around the world, his music maintains a strikingly cohesive sensibility while packing in a dense array of musical ideas and traditions. “In Cuba everything that arrives integrates and becomes part of the culture. Jazz is the same way,” note notes Terry, 40.
Terry introduced the quintet on his acclaimed 2012 album Today’s Opinion (Criss Cross), which was selected by The New York Times as one of the year’s 10 best albums. Tapping into his deep cultural roots in the northern Cuban city of Camaguey, Terry frames his charged improvisations within finely wrought small-group arrangements. Equally commanding on the alto and soprano saxophones and beaded gourd chekeré, Terry is joined by a stellar cast of longtime collaborators, starting with his younger brother, bassist Yunior Terry. While they often work together, Yunior is one of the most sought after bassists in New York, and his performance credits include gigs with Steve Coleman, Eddie Palmieri, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Dafnis Prieto, Jane Bunnett, and more recently Jeff “Tain” Watts and Andy Narell.
The brothers share the experience of growing up performing in the family band Los Terrys, but for Yosvany the most important thing is that “Yunior is someone who you can trust in all musical situations. That’s what makes me call him all the time and add him to a lot of my projects. I’m the kind of person who likes to take risks. That’s what we came here for, and what music is about. I’ve known him from birth, know all of his strengths, and that plays strongly in my decision.”
Osmany Paredes was the original pianist in the Today’s Opinion band, but more recently the group has showcased another startlingly inventive Cuban keyboard talent, Manuel Valera (who like Yosvany and Yunior hails from an illustrious musical family). They first met shortly after Yosvany moved to New York City in 2000 when Valera was a student at the New School, and before long they were calling each other for gigs, and playing together in bands led by Dafnis Prieto and Brian Lynch.
“I knew his father in Cuba,” says Terry, referring to saxophonist Manuel Valera Sr. “But I didn’t know of him, as he’s much younger. He’s a very talented person, and we share a lot of the same cultural traditions, which is important when you’re making music. Everyone in the quintet shares a lot, and that’s what brings the confidence to call them and do anything with them.”
Trumpeter Michael Rodriguez grew up in Miami and moved to New York to study at the New School around the same time as Valera. And like Terry he can often be found performing and recording with his brother, pianist Rod Rodriguez. With his beautiful warm tone and bountiful imagination, he’s played with many of the era’s most influential improvisers, while contributing memorably to recordings by Charlie Haden and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. He and Terry established a tight musical bond playing together with Rubalcaba, Eddie Palmieri and Colombian percussionist Samuel Torres, and he’s become an invaluable creative foil.
“I’m very picky when it comes to trumpet players,” Terry says. “I’ve worked with three the longest, Avishai Cohen, Ambrose, and Mike, in that order. With Mike it’s always about the things you don’t need to talk about. He’s an incredible listener. We’ve had time to to develop this strong blend, this unique ensemble horn-section mind and horn section approach. If I bring in a new tune we can go over it one time and the second time it will be super precise, with all the colors and textures and inflections.”
Haitian-American drummer Obed Calvaire, who also hails from Miami, has become a familiar presence on the Bay Area jazz scene during his ongoing tenure with the SFJazz Collective. On a scene brimming with brilliant drummers, he stands out as a particularly charismatic accompanist. He first encountered Terry’s music around 2000 and was instantly smitten by the music’s spiritual sensibility. At the time the saxophonist held down a regular Thursday night gig at the Jazz Gallery, and Calvaire was there every week.
“Eventually Yosvany began to recognize my face and we got to talking,” says Calvaire, who has been working lately with people like trumpeter Sean Jones, bassist Dave Holland, and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. “Bassist John Benitez, who first brought me down to see Yosvany, said this cat’s a drummer. A couple of years later he called me to do a session and I had done my homework by then on the swing of Afro-Cuban music, so I fit right in. Yosvany is an interesting musical character, his mom is of Haitian descent and his dad is Cuban, and my family’s from Haiti. There’s was an automatic cohesiveness. He’s one of the few leaders I play with who allows me all types of freedom rhythmically. Sometimes his music has specific grooves, but when it’s time to solo, he says ‘Man, play! Be yourself.’ He’s allowed me to reach for certain things I wouldn’t do in any other situation.”