This arresting disc by the Bohemian Trio presents works by contemporary composers, in seven of the eight cases, and showcases the exceptional talent of artists: the saxophonist and percussionist Yosvany Terry, pianist Orlando Alonso and cellist Yves Dharamraj. It takes its name Okónkolo from the smallest of the three bàtá drums identified with the Afro-Cuban orisha Eleguá, who, like a child, is small and mischievous. In its most common musical role the okónkolo (drum) plays an ostinato described by bàtá drummers as ki-la or ki-ha, typically resonant open tone resulting in an unique swing. But it is rather to its ‘persona’ that the glorious colours and textures are splattered and bounced around in the three-way contrapuntal ‘mischief-making’ that is upon the listener perpetrated by the extraordinary musicians of this Bohemian Trio.
The pairing of alto and soprano saxophone with either cello or cello with piano; or piano and saxophones proves a glorious combination especially as the hypnotic underbelly of Afro-Cuban rhythms rocks the harmonies that swing and swerve, and ripple through the melodies of each piece. Case in point: the piece that takes its name from the title of the disc. Here Terry’s saxophone holds its own as a solo voice, but it also creeps almost imperceptibly among the cello’s string textures together with the piano’s, subtly shifting the ensemble’s timbre to mesmeric effect. Half of the eight works come from the pen of Yosvany Terry, who is a balance of poise and profundity on saxophone and percussion. And although his characterful Afro-Cuban roots are demonstrably absent because of the idiom in which this music is written, he makes magical use of those elusive overlaps of tone colour in these powerfully moving works. Both pianist Orlando Alonso – who shares Terry’s Afro-Cuban early musical background, and the French-American cellist Yves Dharamraj are in particularly radiant form too, the latter making vivid use of string harmonics in the precise, glimmering miniature “Tarde en la Lisa”, while Alonso drives the whirling central movements of Ravel’s “Passacaille from Piano Trio in A Minor” as well as Andre Previn’s “Prelude No. 5 from Invisible Drummer”.
More importantly, the players of the Bohemian Trio catch just the right balance of poise and profundity, bringing a light touch to the Argentinean bassist, Pedro Giraudo’s “Push Gift” – the breeziness dissipates artfully when, following Dharamraj’s pizzicato break, the music later nudges into the minor key, egged on by Alonso’s peripatetic, zestful arpeggios in the chacarera that soars as the piece is brought home. Throughout the music on the disc, there is never a lack of momentum, even in the slower, more melancholic pieces such as Manuel Valera’s “Impromptu No. 1 – for Gershwin”, on which Alonso and Dharamraj play beautifully off one another, and just when you think that the lump-in-the-throat moments cannot be sustained anymore, Yosvany Terry arrives with a breathtaking solo to life the spirits until the ensemble returns to further explore the harmonic complexity and haunting emotions of this piece. There’s plenty of colour from subtly glassy on-the-bridge effects to a full-on stamping and jangling in the scherzo interplay on Terry’s “Bohemia”.
Undoubtedly the main attraction here is not simply the brilliance of each of the musicians’ playing, but their partnership between saxophone, piano and cello, making the music of this Bohemian Trio superbly richer in possibilities. Each piece is a study in the art of musical intrigue as far as melody and harmony goes, and in the vibrant rhythmic games that each of the musicians plays among themselves. The recording by Adam Abeshouse is close-up and deeply involving.
Track List: Tarde en la Lisa; Push Gift; Impromptu No. 1 (For Gershwin); Bohemia (Recuerdos de infancia); Prelude No. 5 (From “Invisible Drummer”) – Punto cubano de domingo; Hiroshima; Passacaille (Movement III from Ravel’s Piano Trio in a Minor); Okónkolo (Trio Concertante).
Personnel: Orlando Alonso: piano; Yves Dharamraj: cello; Yosvany Terry: saxophone and percussion.