New York Times – Review

New York Times – Review


“New Throned King”


The call of ancestry, and its expression through folklore, has always been a potent preoccupation for Afro-Caribbean jazz musicians in the United States. Yosvany Terry, a saxophonist, percussionist and composer from an influential musical family in Camagüey, Cuba, is a leader among the current generation, which keeps finding ways of deepening its inquiry.

His latest album, “New Throned King,” amounts to an act of scholarship as well as musical syncretism, and some of his most arresting work since he moved to New York 15 years ago. Featuring his band Ye-Dé-Gbé, which performs Thursday through Sunday at the Jazz Standard, it’s a celebration of Arara culture, especially as found in the Matanzas province of Cuba. The Arara originated in the former West African kingdom of Dahomey, spreading through the slave trade; Mr. Terry’s study of their tradition dates to 2007, when he traveled to Matanzas and commissioned a set of Arara drums.

Mr. Terry, a skilled percussionist, plays one of those drums on “Ojun Degara,” the track that strikes the most equitable balance of ceremonial chant and modern-jazz inflection. Percussive duties are otherwise entrusted to Román Díaz, Pedrito Martínez and Sandy Pérez, with Justin Brown on a standard drum kit. Mr. Martínez leads most of the robust call-and-response chants on the album, including a few, like “Thunderous Passage” and “Laroko,” that hew to ancient form with scant deviation (like Mr. Terry’s silvery interjections on soprano saxophone).

Nearly every track pays homage to an Arara deity. “Walking Over Wave,” a sinuous number, hails Afrekete, an oceanic, maternal figure. “Dance Transformation,” with its rhythmic churn, is for Gebioso, a god of thunder. The title track refers to Asojano, known in the Yoruban orisha system as Babalu-Aye; “Mase Nadodo” celebrates Mase, whose affinity with the orisha Oshun is implied in a spoken-word interlude by Ishmael Reed.

The closer, “Ilere,” composed by Dean Badarou, presents a more general spirit offering, in rolling Afrobeat rhythm. Like “Ye-Dé-Gbé,” a phrase in the Fon language meaning “with the approval of the spirits,” it suggests a bold claim traveling under cover of supplication. NATE CHINEN


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