When I was a teenager in Oregon, I used to listen to lots of fusion and jazz-funk on a great radio station out of Portland. I didn't exactly go around telling anyone this, but I liked it just fine all the same. I felt a little better later, when all that stuff got sampled by hip-hop producers and I realized that there had been a lot of little Bob James nerds like me.
I say this because this album by Cuban-American saxophonist Yosvany Terry Cabrera sounds more fusion-y than Latinate to me. Sure, there are some hot percussion lines here, and yeah, you can kind of tell every once in a while that his roots run deep. This hits home especially on "Okónkolo Concertante" and "Journey of Awareness"the latter starts pretty and then skews more Afro-Cuban as it goes along, with some intriguing Yoruban chant-singing from percussionist Pedro Martinez. And "El Burlón (The Joker)" would have made a very nice theme song if Freddie Prinze had ever made another sitcom in the 1970s.
The rest of the album is, for the most part, that same kind of funky jazz that I loved back before I had heavy metal friends. "Subversive" could be an early Yellowjackets or Weather Report track, with some stunning ensemble work and twisty guitar lines from Mike Moreno. "This Is It" grooves along very solidly for nine minutes, anchored by Jeff "Tain" Watts' nimble drumming. (The rest of the time, Dafnis Prieto handles the chores in the chair with a sneaky and wonderful sense of timing.)
I like what all the soloists are doing here, but none of them ever really attain freedom and/or genius, even when they are wailing. Terry Cabrera's compositions keep things tight, but they can sometimes feel a bit corseted. His bass-playing brother, Yunior, makes a nice impression with his composition "The Crying," but it's still a bit too much slow-tempo Mingus-worship for me. I wish both brothers would allow themselves to have a bit more trust in the musicians (especially trumpeter Avishai Cohen), as it would make everything a lot more fun. But the melodies are so pretty, and the sound so punchy, that it really doesn't matter at this stage.
I expect that Terry Cabrera's next album will sound completely different from this. I'll be along for the ride.
Yosvany Terry Cabrera: saxophone; Avishai Cohen :trumpet; Mike Moreno: guitar; Luis
Perdomo: piano; Hans Glawishnig: bass; James Genus: bass; Yunior Terry Cabrera: bass;
Pedro Martinez: percussion, vocals; Dafnis Prieto: drums; Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums.
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