Afro-Cuban saxophonist Yosvany Terry Cabrera is one of the hottest alto players in the game, partly because of congenital talent (his father Eladio “Don Pancho” Cabrera is a violinist and consummate Chekeré player in Cuba; his brother Yunior plays bass and composes), and partly due to the breadth of his knowledge. He studied in Cuban conservatories before immigrating to New York in 1999 to play with the likes of Eddie Palmieri, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Roy Hargrove, and Avashai Cohen. He knows African folkloric music and the American Songbook; he can quote a Charlie Parker in the middle Latin tune, or set modal, downtown-sounding changes against a bustling son clave rhythm. Thus, his 2006 album Metamorphosis —which features Cohen on trumpet and Watts on drums — is a fantastic example of that protean style that every contemporary jazz artist seems to be shooting for. On songs like “Subversive” — an homage to New York that features a dynamic sax head played over a really hip chord progression — “Transito” — which couples the Manhattan hard-bop sound with Latin percussion — he combines modern influences with folkloric source material, to wonderful effect.
This weekend Cabrera graces the Bay Area with a series of events launched under the banner Yosvany Terry: Yedégbé — The Afro-Caribbean Legacy Project. It kicks off Friday (July 18th), 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center (3105 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley), where Cabrera will play alongside local heavyweights John Santos, Jesus Diaz, and Michael Spiro. (What! Now that’s a show for you). At $12 ($15 at the door) it’s an absolute bargain, trust me. Cabrera will perform at Yerba Buena Gardens Festival the following day (Sat., July 19) from 1-3 p.m., and at the Stanford Jazz Festival Sun., July 20th at 7:30 p.m. This time he’ll bring a quartet featuring Yunior on bass, Osmany Paredes on piano, and on drums, the exciting Justin Brown, a young Oakland native who’s proved to be a monster of a musician.
Yosvany Terry Quartet playing “Subversive” at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles: