This Friday and Saturday, September 18th and 19th, The Jazz Gallery will continue our 20th Anniversary celebration with a return of “Jazz Cubano.” The band will be led by the Cuban saxophonist, composer, and chekere player, Yosvany Terry, who led the original Jazz Cubano shows at The Jazz Gallery and remains a vital force in the Latin Jazz and Contemporary music scenes in New York City.
The Jazz Gallery has a long history and deep ties with Cuban music and Cuban musicians in New York. Dale Fitzgerald, the late founder and executive director of the Jazz Gallery, had a deep love and passion for the music, lifestyle, and culture of Cuba, making a point of curating great Cuban acts at The Jazz Gallery from the very beginning. Under Fitzgerald’s leadership and onward, The Jazz Gallery became the premier venue for Cuban jazz musicians to make their United States debuts and was a physical nexus for expatriate musicians from across Latin America and the Caribbean to hang out, link up, and jam.
This scene centered on The Jazz Gallery’s weekly Jazz Cubano series on Thursday evenings, which ran from 2000 through 2001. The house band was led by Yosvany Terry and featured great musicians from across Latin America, including Venezuelan pianist Luis Perdomo, Puerto Rican bassist John Benitez, and Cuban percussionist Dafnis Prieto. The group also frequently hosted special guests, including Pedro Martinez, Miguel Zenon, Bobby Carcasses (senior and junior). Even after the Jazz Cubano series ended, its influence remained palpable, as many of its featured artists went on to lead and write music for their own groups, becoming prominent members of the greater New York jazz scene.
This past spring, saxophonist Miguel Zenon, pianist Luis Perdomo, and drummer Dafnis Prieto—all members of the Latin Jazz scene at The Jazz Gallery—wrote remembrances for Dale Fitzgerald, each musician speaking fondly of the scene Fitzgerald helped cultivate.
I first met Dale about 15 years ago through Yosvany Terry, when the Gallery was starting to run the “Jazz Cubano Series.” Shortly after that (and through Yosvany’s recommendation), Dale gave me my first chance ever to present an ensemble as a leader. As in my first gig as a leader ANYWHERE. Little did I know that this gig would be the first step towards one of the longest relationships I’ve ever had. The Gallery not only became a place to play, but it became our second home in NYC. At one point we were spending so much time there that my wife jokingly mentioned that we should set up sleeping bags in the back and just sleep there…
At some point, The Jazz Gallery became for me a sort of laboratory and second home, where for years I had the pleasure of developing and trying new music with some of my peers. It was a period of constant growth for myself, playing week after week with some of the best musicians in NYC; and a big part of this was due to the forward thinking vision of Dale Fitzgerald, who not only gave us an opportunity to have our music heard, but created an atmosphere where musicians could come and create in a worry-free environment.
Dale was one of the first people in New York that opened the doors at The Jazz Gallery to my music. These memories are very meaningful to me because they were the beginnings of a complete new musical chapter in my life.
Beyond the Jazz Cubano series, The Jazz Gallery has supported Cuban music in other ways. In 1996, the great Cuban pianist Jesus “Chucho” Valdès and conguero Miguel “Anga” Diaz performed at the Gallery for a rare duo concert, which marked Diaz’s US debut. In 1998, the Gallery hosted a special interdisciplinary event honoring the great Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo, featuring rare archival recordings, a reading by the poet Jayne Cortez, and a presentation of Pozo’s music led by Eddie Bobe.
The concerts at The Jazz Gallery on the 18th and 19th will both be redux of the Jazz Cubano Series and a celebration of the Gallery’s continued commitment to showcasing Cuban music. For these concerts, our bandleader Yosvany Terry will be bringing along a special group of Cuban and non-Cuban musicians, all of whom have strong connections to the Gallery. Both nights feature pianist Osmany Paredes, bassist Yunior Terry, and percussionist Mauricio Herrera, all Cuban natives. On the first night the great master of polyrhythm Jeff Tain Watts is on drums, while the second night, Obed Calvaire (a Haitian native and member of the Yosvany Terry Quintet) takes over. Special guests are expected to sit in, so be on the lookout for some exciting musical surprises! (more…)