Yosvany Terry Quintet +
Prospect Park Bandshell
July 29, 2016
article and pictures by Ernest Barteldes
On an evening dedicated to the memory of the late salsa queen Celia Cruz, the Yosvany Terry quintet (Terry: saxes and chekeré; Yunior Terry: bass; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet; Manuel Valera: piano, Obed Calvaire: drums) came on with an energetic set of original music starting with an uptempo number with a strong Brazilian groove. The band played quite loosely, allowing for lots of free improvisation throughout. Following that vocalist Yanelle McPherson for a Irakere cover with very focused Afro-Cuban roots.
Valera was featured with an extended piano solo that followed some Spanish-language spoken word by the bandleader, who took the checker (an African made of a dried gourd and beads strung on the outside) and did a piece mostly based on it until the band joined in. McPherson returned for the last number, an uptempo rumba with an extended drum solo that got the audience moving.
After a short break Angelique Kidjo came to the stage at first accompanied solely by an acoustic guitar with a ballad in her native Fulani. The 12-piece band (which included Terry and guest percussionist Pedrito Martinez) then kicked in – Kidjo immediately embodied Cruz’s fiery style, singing one of her classic numbers – including Cruz’s signature “Azucar” cry, and followed that with a joyous original tune she explained was inspired by hearing the singer performing in Benin when she was thirteen years old.
One of the set’s highlight’s was the inclusion of a Spanish language version of “Voce Abusou,” a tune originally penned in Portuguese by the duo of Antonio Carlos & Jocafi (the song was also covered by Ella Fitzgerald) – here it was given a more Afro-Cuban treatment, with focus on the percussion. After the tune, Kidjo acknowledged the various influences present on the set, and stated that Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian music “survives through pain” and given the current political climate, “you fight hate with kindness.”
During one of the numbers, Kidjo left the stage (followed by some of the musicians) and walked around the audience, singing with great gusto. She also invited some members of the crowd to come up and dance along with the music.
The set ended with Kidjo’s classic “Tumba,” a song with a lively beat that has become her signature number – the audience was on their feet dancing and singing along to the chorus – the ending of what was one of the season’s most memorable shows.
Angelique Kidjo is probably one of the few singers today that can do justice to Celia Cruz’s music – she has the same spirit and a voice just as strong as the late diva – I happened to be at Cruz’ final performance at Central Park Summerstage, and I am sure that she was looking down from heaven with a smile. It was a wonderful tribute – which I hope Kidjo takes on the road. More people deserve to hear this again and again.