Yesterday evening, at 5 p.m. in the Simons Center Recital Hall, the Bohemian Trio opened to a near-full house. The group, formed in 2013, is comprised of Yosvany Terry, who plays many instruments, including the soprano saxophone, chékere, and other percussion instruments; Orlando Alonso, on piano; and Yves Dharamraj, who plays cello. ]Their sound is a fusion of jazz and classical, an eclectic mix that's at once abstract and traditional.
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.
This and other pieces were technically impressive, both for speed and variation in rhythm and tone. The pace went from quick to lilting. The music was jazzy and, at least in the pieces played during the 5 p.m. show, mostly dissonant and abstract. I had the feeling that listeners who are musically-attuned and musically-educated would be the ideal audience.
The next two pieces, “Push Gift” and “Hiroshima,” were composed by Argentinian Pedro Giraudo. “Push Gift” has a somewhat frantic pace— “relentless,” as Dharamraj describes. “Hiroshima” was appropriately mournful, yet by turns as soothing as a lullaby.
After “Hiroshima,” Alonso played a small piano solo piece from The Invisible Drummer, composed by Andre Previn, which was more melodic and lively, followed by a longer more dissonant piece, “Punto Cubano,” by Yosvany Terry. Terry explained that it was a Cuban-inspired “Punto,” and he played the woodblocks and the guiro to punctuate the rhythm.
It was nice to see the camaraderie of the Trio. Just before the show, Dharamraj reminded Terry to turn off his cell phone and after the second piece, Alonso told Dharamraj that he “started too fast.” Towards the end, Terry asked the audience, “Are you having a good time?”
Yosvany Terry’s performances during the last two pieces were the highlight of the show. When playing the saxophone for “Punto,” his whole body was involved and his feet moved in a sort of dance, reminiscent of a snake charmer.
The last number, Okónkolo, by Yosvany Terry, was a crowd-pleaser for sure. Terry explained that he based the work on the Afro-Cuban Yoruba tradition and he stressed the importance of drums in his culture. He told us that that tradition there is a sort of conversation between the “father, mother, and child” drums. The piece showcased the chékere (think huge gourd with net of beads), which Terry threw and beat with the ease of one with music in his blood. (In fact, I sat next to musician Sonia Jacobsen, whose work was featured in the 7 p.m. show, and she told me that Terry’s father is world-renowned for his chékere playing). In this last piece, we also got to hear Terry sing — his wonderful voice was slow and profound, accompanied only by his chékere. This brief insight into his cultural heritage was moving and powerful.
Through much of the performance, the audience seemed somewhat perplexed. Though the sound was interesting, the dissonance may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, Charleston audiences are kind and gracious and appreciated the musicians’ energy and passion. Personally, I was a little weary after the first two pieces. I wonder if perhaps it was the song choices, though. Yves Dharamraj explained that they will be playing different sets for each performance. There are four left, and I’m sure each one will be filled with surprises, and perhaps more of a mix of the harmonious than the dissonant.