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Yosvany Terry Quintet infuses Latin jazz with history

By Garaud MacTaggart

News Contributing Reviewer

Jon Nelson, the series producer, is continuing to bring exciting jazz talent to Buffalo, building on the quality foundation associated with the “Art of Jazz” under the guidance of Bruce Eaton.

Sunday’s performances by the Yosvany Terry Quintet were, by turns, intriguing and revelatory, sliding with ease between rhythms and styles, sometimes within the course of one tune. Much of the material played came from “New Throned King,” the leader’s latest release and one that was nominated in 2015 for the Grammy Awards’ “Best Latin Jazz Album.”

Terry’s alto sax playing and composition skills were at the heart of the music but so too was a sense of history filtered through a respectful lens. His roots were showcased with a percussive African base flavored by religious traditions and the associated chants brought to the island via the 18th century slave trade from Dahomey/Benin. These rhythmic overtones were associated with Vodu, and perhaps even some Santeria-like rituals, but they meshed with brief snippets that could have come out of the Ornette Coleman style book or from bands led by historically important descarga patrons like Israel “Cachao” Lopez and Bebo Valdes.

The first tune on the program covered all the bases. It was a suite of sorts that included “traditional source material,” post-bop riffing and flurries of what sounded, briefly, like collective free jazz improvisations. The group’s solos slid from one of the front line players (alto, trumpet, or piano) to another while the bass and drums kicked in a kinetic undercurrent that drove the rhythm toward sonic tsunami territory.

For most of the set, Terry never let the audience know what song title they were hearing. It was as if the only things that mattered were the notes being played then, causing the listeners to judge the performance on its merits without a textual roadmap to prepare them for a specific mood.

The only exceptions came when he introduced a pair of songs – “Suzanne” and “The Crying” – composed by the group’s bassist, his brother Yunior Terry. The latter tune was a particularly effective ballad that opened with a bass solo before the drum kit (played by Ludwig Afonso) responded with subtle mallet and cymbal playing and pianist Osvany Paredes chimed in with some sensitive keyboard strokes before turning over the melody to trumpeter Michael Rodriguez and the leader’s alto sax.

Over the course of slightly more than 90 minutes, the quintet displayed its formidable talents and, in the end, the nearly full-house audience responded appropriately by standing, applauding, and, in some instances, actually bowing toward the stage in appreciation for the aural experience provided.

Yep. It was one of those concerts where the bulk of the folks liked what they heard and would, I’m guessing, pay to see the group play again.

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