Intersections between Afro-Cuban music and jazz tend to be characteristically raw and visceral, drum-heavy and tilted toward bodily motion. This particular flavor of Latin jazz very rarely approaches the level of cosmopolitan integration, intellectual consistency and postmodern literacy that marks Metamorphosis
. 34 year-old saxophonist Yosvany Terry Cabrera, who grew up in Camaguey, Cuba, wrote seven of the eight pieces on the record, for which he provides helpful background in the extended bilingual liner notes. His compositions effectively mirror his leadership, which consistently aims for a group sound.
Inattentive listeners will most likely gloss over the sophistication of Metamorphosis because of the easy, flowing quality of the rhythms and the contemporary-sounding instrumental mix. Nothing on the record is raucous, wild or particularly outspoken. Most pieces, especially the soft, sentimental "The Crying"the only piece not written by the leaderwash ashore in gentle waves, devoid of stormy intensity.
But once you pay attention to the subtleties that underpin the material, including the remarkable way Cabrera achieves a seemingly effortless, almost orchestral sound from shifting groups of five to seven musicians, it becomes clear that this is a concept record of supreme confidence, embedded with a potent sense of personal identity.
The first and third pieces have the strongest Afro-Cuban flavor: "Okónkolo Concertante" is intensely polyrhythmic in a West African way, but overlaid with frisky funk; "Journey of Awareness" has soft orchestral overtones but digs deep into a Steve Coleman-like groove and triggers a Yoruba prayer to Obatalá by percussionist Pedro Martinez. Other pieces are more sharply ironic or self-consciously lyrical in turn, and "Subversive" serves up a couple of simmering solos.
Cabrera has assembled a group of ten versatile, maverick musicians for this recording, including trumpeter Avishai Cohen, whose melodic voice often lies at the center of the material; electric guitarist Mike Moreno, who's more repsonsible for the overall contemporary sound than any other player; and a trio of drummersPedro Martinez, Dafnis Prieto, and Jeff "Tain" Wattswho trade off and combine to shape the rhythmic underpinnings.
This exceptional, multilayered record manages to be simultaneously accessible and profound, signaling the arrival of a young composer and bandleader with a distinctive personal vision.