Normally I do not follow the crowd and by that I mean other publications but then again a critic can not hear everything and some things are better left alone. Today's Opinion was on the New York Times year end "Best of..." list and while I am more of a Washington Post guy - my interest was peaked and rightfully so!
There are some releases that on rare occasion simply grab you by your very soul on the first go around and such is the case when Yosvany Terry's Today's Opinion.
There are plenty of musicians working on the hybridization of the Afro-Cuban and contemporary jazz idiom but none with as much flair and natural energy as Terry. Much like a musical tree this release reflects Terry's deep cultural roots and then begins to literally branch off into various limbs that showcase his versatility both as a performer and composer making Terry one of the finest musicians in the jazz mecca that is New York city and has Today's Opinion as an exciting and vibrant excursion that while many attempt - few get it right. Yosvany Terry simple nails it and is one of a very select few that make the Afro-Cuban jazz mix seem as brilliant and beautiful mosaic with each tune not to mention each musician contributing a wondrous shining and reflective light throughout the release.
Terry is a master at his craft. Be it the alto, soprano or shaking the beaded gourd known as the chekere, Yosvany Terry brings flavor, vitality and pop to music that first reached more commercial popularity with the great Dizzy Gillespie and is now redefined further with the organic infusion of Terry's lyrical sense of direction and textured nuances that continue the modern day evolution of some of the finest jazz on the scene today. "Summer Relief" is a Terry original that kicks off a textured flavor of Afro-Cuban swing and unique poly rhythms given a harmonic pop with the subtle percussive nuances but Terry's alto work takes over. Yosvany Terry's versatility is indeed his musical calling card after first being introduced to Terry through his work on the Laura Kahle release Circular it was clear this was indeed an alto player whose musical stock was an arrow pointing straight up. Mike Rodriguez simply slays his solo on "Summer Relief" to set the energetic table for others to follow. "Inner Speech" has the ensemble dialed back to a more subtle and sightly introspective approach but with the articulated pop of punctuation to more than keep a listeners attention. Osmany Paredes helps anchor this odd metered gem and never allows it to turn self indulgent or inaccessible and this may be the key to success for the entire release. Terry's solo work is lyrically defined, harmonically adventurous and forward thinking with an organic pulse to push him to the head of the pack in saxophonists to keep an eye on. With special guest pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba the closing tune "Son Contemporaneo" which is another Terry original takes on yet another sonic twist. A mid tempo syncopated pop that moves with what can now be referred to as the "Terry Sound." There is a special scale of grandeur that marks this tune, somewhat cinematic in scope but a tune with endless possibilities.
Yosvany Terry likes to refer to his craft as musicians being cultural ambassadors by default. The stated goal of Today's Opinion is to incorporate bits and pieces of a variety of cultures and influences while offering his own personal statement of where he views jazz and where it is heading. Terry would seek to promote the positive and inventive evolutionary process of jazz as this is the way Terry hears the music. The key to jazz as much as the key to most things in life is listening and this includes the musician as well. It is clear that Yosvany Terry has clearly taken his own advice as Today's Opinion is far more than cultural lip service but a dynamic influence of Afro-Cuban, what I refer to as straight Latin but with a deceptively subtle contemporary spin. This exceptional, multilayered recording Today's Opinion manages to be simultaneously accessible and profound; it signals the next phase of Mr. Terry's distinctive personal vision.
Virtually flawless. One of the best of 2012. 5 Huge Stars.
Tracks: Summer Relief; Contrapuntistico; Inner Speech; Returning Home; Harlem Matinee; Suzanne; Another Vision Of OJI; Son Contemporaneo.
Personnel: Yosvany Terry: alto & soprano sax, chekere; Michael Rodriquez: trumpet; Osmany Paredes: piano; Yunior Terry: bass; Obed Calvaire: drums; Pedro Martinez: percussion, vocals; Gonzalo Rubalcaba: keyboards (8).
A taste of Yosvany Terry from You Tube!