by Marcus Crowder, San Francisco Bay Guardian
July 16, 2008

With his new suite of songs, "Ye-dé-gbé and the Afro-Caribbean Legacy," Yosvany Terry puts his audience on a swivel, looking forward while also looking back. The Cuban-born composer-saxophonist-percussionist incorporates elements of Arará rhythms — a style brought to Cuba by slaves taken from Dahomey, now Benin, in West Africa — into his angular modern jazz writing.

"Even though I'm looking back at history, I'm trying to create something which can be combined with the most modern material I've been working on," Terry said from his New York City home. Three of Terry's compositions were recorded on pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba's latest album, Avatar (Blue Note), which was released this spring. Though Terry was most recently heard on that disc with Rubalcaba's brilliant new quintet, the "Ye-dé-gbé" project has a more anthropological genesis. Terry traveled to Matanzas, Cuba, and studied with Mario "Mano" Rodriguez Pedroso, one of the greatest living drummers in the Arará tradition. He even had his own Arará drums made there.

"The way the drums are played with sticks is a Dahomey tradition, which I bring up to date," he explained. "You can hear the deep foundation, which is very old, but at the same time, you hear it in a context which sounds very modern."

The music combines percussive layers with call-and-response chants and modern jazz soloing. Terry also gives credit to Bay Area percussionist Sandy Perez as a key element in the development of the suite, which receives its West Coast premiere in a series of Bay Area performances by Perez and his Afro-Caribbean Legacy band. The group includes lead vocalist and percussionist Pedro Martinez, pianist Osmany Paredes, dancer Felix "Pupi" Insua, percussionist Roman Diaz, and Terry's brother Yunior Terry on bass.