Thursday, February 2, 2017

Bohemian Trio - Okònkolo (INNOVA RECORDINGS 2017)

Few groups live up to their name as well as Bohemian Trio, whose debut album Okónkolo speaks to the true voice of America: a cacophony of cultures that together forge a new identity that transcends Old World boundaries. Their original blend of classical lyricism, jazz harmony, Latin dance and Afro-Cuban beats reflects their diverse cultural and musical backgrounds.

Saxophonist/composer Yosvany Terry and pianist Orlando Alonso were born and trained musically in Cuba, while French-American cellist Yves Dharamraj is also part Trinidadian. Sax, piano and cello? This unique configuration was a conscious choice by the group to eschew traditional instrumentation for an improvising group, and it pays dividends in the sound of Okónkolo, at once refined and edgy.

The album’s title track is named for the “baby” or smallest member of the Batá drums used in Yoruba religious ceremonies. The okónkolo traditionally serves as timekeeper while the “father” itótele and “mother” iyá drums converse, improvise and entertain. In Terry’s “Okónkolo,” this drumming tradition is both a metaphor for the interaction between saxophone, cello and piano, and a reflection of the cultural diffusion that embodies the Bohemian Trio and its music.

Also on the album are works by Pedro Giraudo and Manuel Valera, some of which use Latin and jazz idioms while dovetailing classical sounds and techniques. Giraudo’s “Push Gift” is a relentless Argentinean milonga that borrows Baroque imitation and Impressionistic harmonies. Valera’s “Impromptu” is a breezy piece that pays homage to George Gershwin.

As Adam Parker writes in the liner notes, “We might think of Bohemian Trio as a commingling of various musical styles and lived experiences, and this can help us as we seek to explain the group’s generous display of talent. Or we can just listen and marvel at the beauty of it.”

“This chamberlike improvising trio specializes in music of traditional Latin American origin, though its methods are cosmopolitan.” – The New York Times

“Alonso and Terry, Cuban-born and trained, and the French-American Dharamraj are paving a new course, one that wholly relies on their refined abilities while embracing that dangerous, edgy quality one finds in complex jazz and lots of contemporary classical music.” – Adam Parker (The Post and Courier)

“I have listened to the trio before and they brought me a big surprise, what I expect is to once again be surprised.” – Larry Blumenfeld (Wall Street Journal)

“Terry’s sound is most distinctive on soprano, and “Tarde en La Lisa” was the best example of the exuberance and plenitude of his ideas. Alonso’s backing had steely force as the composer played the line, a perfect launch pad for the soprano rant that followed. Then the piano was an island of calm, setting us up for a full round of vigorous Bohemian solos before Terry circled back to the melody. “Hiroshima,” the placid finale on the Giraudo Jazz Orchestra’s 2009 El Viaje release, was not radically altered at all as the Bohemians’ valedictory. Dharamraj eloquently played the line before Alonso and Terry, still on soprano, paid their soulful, subdued respects.” – Perry Tannenbaum (Jazz Times Magazine)

“The Trio opened with a piece influenced by traditional Latin American sounds, called “Bohemia: Memories from Childhood,” by Yosvany Terry. (Not only does Terry play numerous instruments throughout the performance, he also composes half of the music). The piece began in an uneasy tone sad, haunting, and dissonant. Alsonso’s hands swept the piano like leaves fluttering and Terry’s soprano sax was hypnotic as the Pied Piper.” – Celeste McMaster (Charleston City Paper)

01. Tarde en la Lisa 7:21
02. Push Gift 7:03
03. Impromptu No. 1 for Gershwin 5:58
04. Bohemia (Recuerdos de Infancia) 7:41
05. The Invisible Drummer: Prelude No. 5 13:31
06. Hiroshima 3:08
07. Piano Trio in A Minor: III. Passacaill 7:24
08. Okònkolo (Trio Concertante) 8:50