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Yosvany Terry: Yosvany Terry: New Throned King

Steve Bryant By

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Yosvany Terry is part of the new wave of young Cuban players who have come to these shores during the last decade and established a solid presence based on their artistry and virtuosity. What has distinguished Terry from his counterparts, however, is that while most of the Cubans are either pianists or drummers, his instruments of choice have been the alto and soprano sax. In the meantime, Terry, who is the scion of one of Cuba's musical first families, Los Terry, has been a mainstay on the New York jazz scene playing with the likes of Eddie Palmieri, Roy Hargrove, Dave Douglas, and Jeff "Tain" Watts.

While operating in the U.S., Terry has maintained a personal interest in the richly varied musical and religious cultures of his island. Terry was born and raised in the town of Matanzas, a recognized as a repository of traditional African culture and religion. He was raised in the Lucumi (Yoruba) tradition of his family, but recently developed an interest in another more esoteric spiritual/ tradition known as Arara, which came to Cuba with Africans who came from the Dahomey region. As his mother is descended from Haitians who practiced this, Terry made a conscious decision to study Arara rituals and music, eventually becoming initiated into the Arara community in Mantanzas.

Terry's new recording New Throned King (5Passion Records) is the musical culmination of his spiritual exploration, and one of the most creative recordings of the year. The entire set is comprised of music Terry composed, based on Arara "cantos" and rhythms, which for the most part have never been performed outside of Matanzas.

To insure the cultural authenticity of this project, Terry recruited top flight Afro-Cuban players and formed a group which he named Ye-De Gbe, which means " with the approval of the spirits" in Fon, the traditional Arara language. In this group are bassist Yunior Terry Cabrera who besides having solid Afro-Cuban cred is Terry's brother, pianist Osmany Paredes, African guitarist Dominck Kanza, drummer Justin Brown, who has been keeping time for Terence Blanchard, and a percussion battery comprised of, perhaps, the best Afro-Cuban drummers in the States, Roman Diaz, Pedro "Pedrito" Martinez, and Terry's homie from Matanzas, Sandy Perez, a member of the family clan which founded the legendary ensembles Los Munequitos and Grupo Afrocuba.

Terry opens the set with a ceremonial piece titled "Reuniendo La Nacion," (Reuniting The Nation) which begins with a mashup of Haitian and Arara drumming. Terry lays down an angular melody, joined by a haunting piano riff from guest Jason Moran. The title tune, an invocation to Asojano/Babaluaiye, starts off with a chorus by Martinez, Diaz, and Perez laid over a rhythmic piano vamp by Paredes, with a swingin' Shorter-esque solo by Terry. Terry makes things interesting with variations on the instrumentation. On "Laroko," dedicated to Elegua, Terry simply uses chants and clapping, interspersed with a sinuous soprano response. He also shows mad chekere skills to open the traditional ceremonial piece.

Other cuts of note are "Nase Nadodo," which includes a poem by Ishmael Reed dedicated to the African Amazons women warriors, and "Thunderous Passage," dedicated to Chango, a straight drum/percussion set. Terry eschews his horn and plays the ceremonial Arara drums known as wewe. The recording concludes with "Ile Ire." (House of Joy) which starts with vocals by Martinez and poetic meditations by Diaz, intertwined with hypnotic solos by Terry and Paredes on piano.

With New Throned King Terry has managed to take what might have been a pedantic scholarly work and created music which is at once powerful and revelatory. His ensemble is more than up to the task. Terry has shown to be a highly creative saxman. Paredes is schooled in both Afro-Cuban and bop/swing idioms, so his solos veritably dance through each composition, while Brown is adept at handling highly complex rhythm patterns. With this project Terry has created music of the highest order, redefined definitions of what constitutes so-called "Latin Jazz," and made arguably one of the best releases this year.

Track Listing: Reuniendo La Nacion; New Throned King; Walking Over Wave; Laroko; Ojun Degara; Mase Nadodo; Thunderous Passage; Healing Power; Dance Transformation; Ilere

Personnel: Yosvany Terry "Sobo Jain":saxophones,chekere,wewe,coro; Osmany Paredes: piano; Yunior Terry "Afra Jun":bass; Pedro Martinez "Eshu Ni": lead vocalist,apitli; Sandy Perez "Oya Ladde":yonofu,akoto (1,2,3,7,9.10); Roman Diaz "Asia Ana Bi:wewe,coro; Dominick Kanza: guitar (2,3,9,10); Justin Brown:drums (2,3,5,6,8,9,10); Jason Moran: piano,(1); Val Jeanty: sound design, DJ (1,8); Gema Correda: coro (4,5,6,8); Ishmael Reed:poetry (6)

Title: Yosvany Terry: New Throned King | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: 5Passion

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