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Grupo Yanqui Rides Again (2008)

Jazz Review (UK)

August/September, 2008

Grupo Yanqui’s name derives from “Yankee,” perhaps a wry observation that this New York outfit are essentially a bunch of anglos paying sincere homage to Latin Jazz.  Following on from their eponymous 2001 debut, the programme is once again an exciting blend of re-arranged standards and originals from within the band.  Saxophonist Chris Cheek is probably the group’s best known member, although Yosvany Terry Cabrera, who regularly gigs with the group, is a hot property in Latin circles and appeared on their debut. Opening with Chick Corea’s mid-60’s Latin masterpiece “Tones for Joan’s Bones,” Grupo Yanqui immediately make explicit reference to that defining era.  The crackling interplay between Cheek and trumpeter Alex Norris is completely absorbing, showing all of the wandering ‘inside/outside’ schemata of Bennie Maupin and Woody Shaw in their prime.  Nominally the group’s co-leader, pianist Paster’s rich harmonic probing is underpinned by Ryan and Hall, a working trio comfortable inside the blanketing swells of post-Coltrane energy, shoe-horning it into accessible grooves.

Despite heavy bop leanings, Afro-Cuban rhythms and harmonies are the group’s calling card.  “If Woody Had Gone Straight to the Police…” is one of the disc’s most driving pieces, and perfectly illustrates the group’s easy confluence of styles.  Bustling modernistic pieces such as “The Unabonger” and “The Kid From Albuquerque” show their mastery of the jazz idiom, whilst softer Latin pulses are found on “The Chick From Panama,” a humorously titled but musically sincere nod to “The Girl from Ipanema.”  Cheek gives Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge” an elegiac and highly considered reading, whilst the highly modal (and Joe Henderson inspired) “PoMoAfroMoFoJo” sees Paster at his most Tyner-ish.  Although very much a music of homages, Grupo Yanqui must be considered one of New York’s best-kept secrets.  With all of the technical facility, interpretive originality and fiery passion to pull the job off in style, this is a warmly recommended slice of contemporary jazz. 
-Fred Grand


Jazziz - October 2008

Latin-jazz sextet Grupo Yanqui makes music that stimulates both the head and the feet.  As the group’s name implies, pianist Bennett Paster and bassist Gregory Ryan and Yankee gringos, but they mambo like Latin masters on Grupo Yanqui Rides Again, a sophisticated collection of Americanized Latin jazz featuring some of New York City’s most gifted young jazzmen

Seven years have passed since Paster and Ryan released their fine debut recording with Grupo Yanqui.  Despite the long hiatus and several lineup changes, Grupo’s second release again offers intoxicating Afro Cuban arrangements, driving polyrhythms and quick-witted exchanges.  Recorded on the heels of a an Eastern European tour, Rides Again consists of seven originals and two excellent covers.

Truth is, Paster and Ryan have kept plenty busy since Grupo’s 2001 debut, both as in-demand sidemen and in their trio with drummer Keith Hall, who also appears here.  Up-and-coming saxophonist Chris Cheek, trumpeter Alex Norris and Israeli percussionist Gilad round out the latest incarnation of the band.

Pianist Paster is a commanding presence as he careens around the rhythms while always keeping the clave alive.  Ryan more than meets the challenges confronting a Latin-jazz bassist, building a solid foundation on every track.  Uptempo tunes include a heady cover of Chick Corea’s “Tones for Joan’s Bones,” the danceable descarga “If Woody Had Gone Right To the Police,” and the boppish “PoMoAfroMoFoJo.”  A lush take on Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge” offers very soulful interplay between Cheek and Norris and a thoughtful solo by Paster.

It’s been a long wait, but once again, Paster and Ryan have seamlessly melded jazz chops with accessible Latin forms.
-Ed Kopp


All Music Guide - September 2008

Grupo Yanqui indeed rides again, as the excellent pianist Bennett Paster, bassist Gregory Ryan and drummer Keith Hall bump up their previously recorded efforts as a trio to a sextet, emphasizing modern jazz on the Afro-Cuban side. Tenor saxophonist Chris Cheek, trumpeter Alex Norris. and hand percussionist Gilad help churn up a tasty mix of music that has a distinct contemporary flair and an underpinning of the Latin sounds that have melded with jazz over the past 50 years. Paster and Ryan wrote the bulk of the music, tailored to the estimable talents of the horn players, and sport a fluid dynamic that is hard to dismiss as anything less than impressive. Among the hippest of tunes are "If Woody Had Gone Right to the Police...," with its popping horn lines, montuno piano, and soaring musicianship. "The Chick from Panama" represents one of several direct references to Chick Corea's intelligent designs, with the off minor elements and boyish joy of "The Kid from Albuquerque" very much influenced by the famous pianist. "Tones for Joan's Bones," a Corea penned favorite among many, is given a distinct spiced up flavor, with Cheek's tenor playing quite elevated. Though speciously titled, "The Unabonger" is half reassuring and approachable, half deep, heavy, and dark blue, while the bluesy waltz "PoMoAfroMoFoJo" perfectly re-creates the modern Blue Note sound of Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and early period Woody Shaw, while "El Vaquero Numero Cinco" is a loping, slower, 5/4 clave paced tune where the horn players truly sing. A cover of Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge" unfolds slowly and soulfully -- a nice adaptation of this well-worn melody. No matter the criteria, this wonderful music would be difficult to nitpick, for it is not copped, derivative, or clichéd on any but the minutest levels. Given that many artists in recent times have mixed the Latin and jazz genres, Grupo Yanqui are not only riding high, but also streaking ahead of similar groups. 4 1/2 Stars
- Michael G. Nastos

Jazz Times - October 2008

On it’s second outing, this savvy New York-based Latin-jazz sextet co-led by pianist Bennett Paster and bassist Gregory Ryan puts a clever salsa spin on Chick Corea’s “Tones for Joan’s Bones” and Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge.”  Saxophonist Chris Cheek and trumpeter Alex Norris shine in the frontline while drummer Keith Hall and Percussionist Gilad percolate underneath on clave-fueled originals like Paster’s “The Kid From Albuquerque” and Ryan’s churning descarga “If Woody Had Gone Right to the Police…” 
-Bill Milkowski

Jazz and Blues Report - June 2008

On their second CD, the NYC-based band Grupo  Yanqui delivers a jazz-driven mix of Afro-Cuban, Brazilian  and Latin music mostly composed by the leaders, pianist  Bennett Paster and bassist Gregory Ryan, whose combined  sense of humor comes out in tune titles and the playfulness in some of their originals... Among the highlights are Paster’s “The Unabonger,” a hip pulsating number that conveys a sense of urgency and Ryan’s uptempo descarga “If Woody Had Gone Right  to the Police...” which features some fine front-line solos and cohesive teamwork.  This outing is appealing for the polished musicianship as well as brilliantly crafted, lively compositions and robust arrangements.
-Nancy Ann Lee

All About Jazz - October 3, 2008

This album is a winning effort that presents urban Latin jazz, led by pianist Bennett Paster and bassist Gregory Ryan. Grupo Yanqui Rides Again is a solid interpretation of mostly original material proffered up by the leading duo.

The album contains the combination of Latin ideas and the talent of saxophonist Chris Cheek and trumpeter/flugelhornist/percussionist Alex Norris. In addition, hand percussionist Gilad certainly adds the flair of Latin jazz to the sound...

All but two of the compositions are from the pens of Paster and Ryan, with the others being Chick Corea's "Tones for Joan's Bones" and a bolero version of Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge," which provides a refreshing change of pace.

This is the second album from Grupo Yanqui, although it follows several years after the first. Paster and Ryan have updated the musical geographic territory for Grupo Yanqui to include Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and American influenced compositions, all with Latin-tinged arrangements.

The change in repertoire has given Grupo Yanqui a strong base to build from, with the listener being the winner. 
-Michael P. Gladstone


All About Jazz - January 25, 2009

A shared love for Latin music is what drives the partnership headed by pianist Bennett Paster and acoustic/electric bassist Gregory Ryan, known as Grupo Yanqui. Formed in 2001, the like-minded associates combine the musical influences of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian rhythms with an American jazz perspective. Grupo Yanqui Rides Again, the ensemble's second release, features clever composing and arranging from the two leaders along with first-rate musicianship.
There's an abundance of energy emanating from this disc. The opening "Tones for Jones Bones" finds trumpeter Alex Norris blowing through the Chick Corea classic with conviction and finesse. The tune's extended outro contains an impressive piano/bass ostinato pattern over a spirited back-and-forth between drummer Keith Hall and percussionist Gilad. Norris and saxophonist Chris Cheek partake in soulful blowing exchanges on Paster's funky "The Unabonger" and Ryan's fiery "If Woody Had Gone Right to the Police..."

Ryans' "The Chick from Panama" and Paster's 5/4 cha-cha-cha "El Vaquero Numero Cinco" reveal a pair of composers with a thorough understanding of the Latin jazz vernacular, full of contemporary twists and turns. Disc highlights include Paster's clustered montuno pattern on "The Kid from Albuquerque," complimenting a soaring, lyrical melody and Ryan's emotive solo bass intro to the 6/8 modal closer "PoMoAfroMoFoJo."

Grupo Yanqui succeeds at presenting challenging musical ideas with broad-based appeal. The pulsating rhythmic clarity of each track has the potential to reach a mass audience without sacrificing an ounce of musical integrity.
John Barron

Audiophile Audition  - August 7, 2008

This Latin jazz sextet, originated by Paster and Ryan, takes Latin jazz into a more modern style - mixing the usual Afro-Cuban influences with music of Brazil and other Latin countries, plus a heavy dose of contemporary jazz and funk.  The results do sizzle. Chick Corea’s Tones for Joan’s Bones is not the sort of tune one finds on the typical Latin jazz album.  There’s several tunes from members of the sextet, and a great variety of percussion effects are indicated by the band’s trumpet player being also credited for doubling on the clave and chékere.It’s not all at a breathless pace either - Chelsea Bridge from Billy Strayhorn gets a slowed-down treatment that polishes the great beauty of the tune until it gleams.  Sonics are excellent - the percussion effects crisp and tight. 
-John Henry - August 2008

Co-led by the young, up-and-coming New York City-based pianist (Bennett Paster) and bassist (Gregory Ryan), Grupo Yanqui's stock-in-trade is accomplished - but not overly-polished - Latin Jazz of the sort that simultaneously stimulates the intellect and moves the booty. Though the Grupo has been at it for almost a decade, this CD is only their second recording...

Aside from two covers – Chick Corea's 'Tones for Joan's Bones' and Billy Strayhorn's 'Chelsea Bridge,' - the CD is comprised of original compositions written by Hall or Paster. Each of Ryan's rather oddly-titled pieces have a sort of unexpected, attention-grabbing twist. 'The Chick From Panama' has some real dark harmonies happening between the piano and bass, though it's basically a sultry, smoldering Latin-jazz tune with endlessly percolating percussion, Harmon-muted trumpet and tenor sax out front – Cheek's tenor solo here is magnificent, well-paced and soulful and is almost one-upped by Norris' fluid trumpet. 'If Woody Had Gone Right to The Police...' has an angular, oddly phrased head that unfurls over a bubbling, almost exuberant, guaguanco rhythm. 'PoMoAfroMoFoJoIntro' is a ruminative solo acoustic bass feature that sets up the roiling, soul-jazz tinged 'PoMoAfroMoFoJo' – one of the less overtly Latin pieces on this CD. Again, Norris' and Cheek's solos burn brightly, while Paster follows with a wild, cliffhanging, free-range piano solo.

Paster's contributions are similarly accomplished, though his tastes lean towards the Latin-funk end of the spectrum. 'The Unabonger' has a decidedly old-school modal jazz-funk flavor to it that I found endlessly appealing. 'El Vaquero Numero Cinco' is, as you might expect, in 5/4 time and sports a rather long and tricky theme that gives way to bracing solos by Hall, Norris, and Paster. The title reference in 'The Kid From Albuquerque' may be to Paster's own New Mexico-based childhood experience, but the tune is no-holds-barred Latin jazz in the vein of Jerry Gonzalez and The Fort Apache Band. Cheek chips in a nice alto sax solo here as well. The two covers fare similarly well. It's always great to hear early Chick Corea tunes, and 'Tones for Joan's Bones' is a great pick. The same could be said for Billy Strayhorn's tunes, and the sextet's sultry rendering of 'Chelsea Bridge' – the CD's only ballad - is absolutely first-rate. So, while there is Latin jazz aplenty on 'Grupo Yanqui Rides Again,' this Grupo is not riding a one-trick pony – they adventure into all sorts of diverse areas with the ease, inventiveness and good humor. This CD is a pleasure from start to finish. 
-Dave Wayne

Midwest Record - May 2008

[Grupo Yanqui plays Latin Jazz] with the kind of funk and feel that would make this highly recommended on the splash page of Dusty Grooves.   Simply a fun Afro-Cuban romp that finds the crew turning in hot solos, steaming through hot jams and simply letting the steam from the melting pot that is New York rise in the spirit of fun throughout.  Edgy, heady stuff that never quite wanders off the page even as it thinks outside the box, contemporary, urban jazz fans are sure to use this in their next fusillade against smooth jazz.  Check it out.

Improvijazzation Nation

Improvijazzation Nation #82 - June 2008

All but 2 ("Tones for Joan's Bones" by Chick Corea & "Chelsea Bridge" from Billy Strayhorn) of the 9 compositions on this funky latin-based CD are originals, which no doubt is what made our blood kick up it's heels & begin to (mentally, anyway) dance frenetically.  It only took a couple listens through the 9 tracks to figure out that "The Unabonger" was the track for me... absolute favorite, with solid Latin licks & an energy quotient that just won't quit... + which, that title is priceless!  Nearly all the tunes are danceable, so you get more than you bargained for... high-energy jazz, new directions & a great beat for your toes to tap to, or get up & shuffle madly 'round the room to.  The group, led by Bennett's piano, takes you on a passionate percussive journey that you won't soon forget; in fact, some of these compositions will stay with you for years if you listen to the album (even) once.  I'm mightily impressed... we hope to hear much more from these folks (& I'm sure we will).  If you're looking for Latin jazz that isn't (in the least bit) "tired", check them out right away.  I give this our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating...  
-Rotcod Zzaj


Grupo Yanqui (2001)

All Music Guide  - December 2001

AMG EXPERT REVIEW: Pianist Bennett Paster and bassist Gregory Ryan team up with drummer Rob Garcia to form the core of Grupo Yanqui. Chris Cheek and Yosvany Terry Cabrera share saxophone duties (and appear only on separate tracks), while Gilad and Dafnis Prieto handle percussion. Not unlike the Rumba Club, Grupo Yanqui looks at Latin jazz as a springboard for highly creative and complex original music. Paster penned six tunes for the session; Ryan, who plays both acoustic and electric bass, contributes three others. There's also a playful arrangement of Harburg and Lane's "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" and a boisterous closing rendition of Bebo Valdés' "Cactus Mambo." Paster is featured without horns on his "Fantasy," a piece with symphonic overtones and an intoxicating, repeated melody. Other highlights include Ryan's "Storytime," a snappy minor-key groove in six; Paster's "Tema Para Yosvany," an elaborate piece based on a tricky figure in five; and "Oaktown Morning Blues," also by Paster, a brooding song in a slow 7/4. Involved arrangements, passionate solos, and vigorous, spontaneous interplay, all with a melodic and cosmopolitan Latin funk touch. Highly recommended. 4 out of 5 possible stars
- David R. Adler - January 2002

Somehow these young New York guys seem to never let you down. On Grupo Yanqui (are they the anti-Grupo Mets?) leaders Bennett Paster and Gregory Ryan showcase their hip, cerebral, groovy originals and two standards in a series of fine and energetic performances. Ryan's "Miller Time" is a hard Latin Funk groove with an interesting and intelligent line and neat solos all around. Paster's "Mona Se Queda" is a tight Wayne Shorter-ish thing with a really hip minor chord sequence, and the band really takes this one somewhere - into a controlled frenzy in the solos before returning to the subtle line before freaking out again at the end. It's into the cabaret or ballroom of your choice for "How Are Things In Gloccamora?", as the fellas cha-cha this one up quite nicely. Paster's "Fantasy" is a showcase for his understanding of harmony, dynamics and tension and resolution and how they relate to composition. Very well done, as is this entirely refreshing recording. The group shows their sense of humor on the Bebo Valdes closer "Cactus Mambo".
- Jim Josselyn

Cadence Magazine - April 2002

Although a North American production, the recording has all the savory taste of the islands and the Southern Hemisphere. This band regularly heats up the temperature and lays down a bountiful dose of syncopated vibrations. It is a solid offering.
- Frank Rubolino - May 2002

Grupo Yanqui is headed by the young New Yorkers Bennett Paster and Gregory Ryan. They play a brand of jazz that is very much in your head. It is erudite and inventive and very, very listenable. These fine young musicians are intent on producing a hip brand of Latin Jazz drawn through the high polish of an Anglo prism. Saxophonists Terry Cabrera and Chris Cheek carry the band from one song to the next, hoisted by Paster's full-fisted piano. Latin percussion is evident everywhere, providing the music with a salsa shiver. Grupo Yanqui is a fine start. It is about time this group be heard by a label.
- C. Michael Bailey

Concerts & Other Press

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