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Interviews & Reviews - Today's Opinion by Yosvany Terry

CD REVIEW:  TODAY'S OPINION by YOSVANY TERRY 
Criss Cross  2012

Review by Bill Tilford, All Rights Reserved

Over the last year, there was a bit of a firestorm in some musicians' circles over the elimination of Latin Jazz as a distinct category in the GRAMMY awards program (It still exists as a separate category in the Latin GRAMMY awards).  We aren't going to replay that debate here, but it did raise some interesting questions about when Latin Jazz really needs to have that distinct label and when it can compete head to head, without fear,  with "conventional"  advanced Jazz offerings in terms of variety and complexity. There is a substantial element of the community that works within fairly tight musical constraints (Mambo jazz, conventional 6/8 patterns, standard chord progressions etc.) and produces music that is often excellent (occasionally even sublime)  but can also be set apart fairly easily from the rest of what  happens in Jazz due to the boundaries within which it stays. 
Then there are artists of Yosvany Terry's caliber who truly have broken away from the stereotypes of what to expect in "Latin Jazz" recordings while still incorporating enough cubanismo to be able to use either label equally well.  Born in Camaguey, Cuba but a New Yorker for over a decade now, Yosvany has by his own account listened to a phenomenal range of both Jazz and Classical styles, absorbed and modified several different influences, and created a distinct voice out of these various elements.   
This review will of necessity end up oversimplifying what is happening in the songs - Yosvany's writing and the ensemble's playing are full of surprises throughout, and we could spend a paragraph or two on every track if we chose.    If you're sure that  you know what's happening in a selection of this recording, just wait a little bit.  We also find that each time that we go back to a track, we notice things that we didn't catch before.  
The lead track, Summer Relief, opens with a deceptively conventional Afrocuban 6/8 figure, but within the first minute it jumps off into an intricate but very lyrical  tapestry of alternating straight-ahead, post-bop  and Cuban jazz motifs.  Contrapuntistico opens with a beautiful solo piano passage by Osmany Paredes and then morphs into a sonic streetscape, almost like a 21st-century NY answer to Bud Powell's Parisian Thoroughfare.  Inner Speech defies easy description, but an interesting aspect of the piece is that there are some tasty threads that could work as slow Funk woven  through some of its passages.  Returning Home is a beautiful ballad interwoven with some intricate percussion work.   Harlem Matinee stands out for its creative use of time signatures and phrasings along with the nice workouts by Obed Calvaire on traps and Mike Rodriguez on trumpet.  Fans of Don Ellis' work may especially dig this piece.  Suzanne, the one track not composed by Yosvany (but still in the family with his brother Yunior Terry) is a nice Samba Jazz track with some Jazz-Rock elements woven in the intro and the closing passage.   In addition to writing the piece, Yunior Terry stretches out here with a beautiful bass solo.  Yunior also has an extended , contemplative solo opening in Another Vision of Oji,  a beautiful song that is structured very differently than Dave Holland's Conference of the Birds but evokes some similar imagery when you close your eyes and listen, especially in Yosvany's wonderful saxophone passages.   The closing track, Son Contemporaneo, features a guest appearance by keyboard legend Gonzalo Rubalcaba and provides a climactic ending to the recording.  But don't expect a conventional Son there, what actually happens is - well, that would be telling.
Yosvany's reed work is stellar throughout and will hopefully gain wider public recognition with this new release.   
So, is this Jazz or Latin Jazz?   The correct answer is:  Yes.  This recording is deep enough that it can take its rightful place among straight-ahead Jazz recordings without apologies, explanations or footnotes.  If you are a serious Jazz enthusiast, we recommend this recording very highly on those terms without regard to the fact that the artist happened to be born in Cuba.   But it also represents the best of the new wave in Latin Jazz.  One of the challenges for this generation of  composers and performers has been how to integrate the best elements of the old school without being confined by them or, on the other extreme, gratuitous experiments with  the avant garde just for the sake of sounding 'different'. Yosvany Terry is one of those who has successfully cracked the code for how to do something both new and vital. There is no significant use of dissonance in this recording, and the chord progessions, while frequently very different than what most commonly crop up in more generic recordings, are also very pretty.    If Irakere's or Emiliano Salvador's jazz work (wonderful as it was)  is as far as you can go without getting lost, Today's Opinion may baffle you at times.  But if you are ready for the next step beyond that, here it is, and it's beautiful there.    
Yosvany's website is yosvanyterry.com 

May 2013 Update:  Today's Opinion has received the Cubadisco 2013 Award (Cuba's equivalent of a GRAMMY Award) in the category Jazz Cubano. 

Personnel on Today's Opinion  

Role - InstrumentName
Leader, Alto and Soprano Saxophone, Chekeré Yosvany Terry
Trumpet Mike Rodriquez
Piano Osmany Paredes
Bass Yunior Terry
Drums Obed Calvaire
Percussion/Vocal Pedro Martinez
Guest Keyboards on Son Contemporaneo Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Composer (all tracks except Suzanne) Yosvany Terry (Suzanne composed by Marcio B. A/Yunior Terry)

Monday, 20 May 2013, 09:59 AM