by Hrayr Attarian
Rocky Yera - Tenor Saxophone
Victor Garcia - Trumpet
Jeff Coffin - Alto Saxophone on "Mr. JC and the Baby Maker"
Darwin Noguera - Piano, Electric Piano
Pete Benson - Organ
Aaron Lebos - Electric Guitar
Josh Ramos - Electric and Upright Bass
Xavier Breaker - Drums
Juan Pastor - Drums
Jose Gregorio Hernandez - Conga and Timbales
Cuban born tenor saxophonist Rocky Yera makes his recording debut with the highly enjoyable Just Practice. On it Yera leads a band of superlative Chicago based musicians with a few guest artists, most notably alto saxophonist Jeff Coffin whose work has greatly influenced Yera.
Coffin, of Dave Matthews Band fame, contributes a smooth, acerbic solo to the rock and roll-ish “Mr. JC & the Baby Maker”. The tune also showcases pianist Darwin Noguera’s electric keyboard groove and Yera’s guitar pedal enhanced tenor.
The album also showcases Year’s versatility as a composer, in addition to his mastery of the saxophone, as his eight originals span a range of styles. Yera crafts his melodies from catchy vamps that are well suited for his reverberating tone. His delightfully riotous performance adds an exuberant abandon to the Latin “Back In Miami”. Trumpeter Victor Garcia improvises with warmth and agility over the percussion heavy beats.
Garcia and Yera engage in delightfully effervescent exchanges on the easy swinging “Good Old Songs”. Organist Peter Benson lays down thick simmering chords that together with bassist Josh Ramos’ muscular lines and drummer Xavier Breaker’s elegant brushing form the tune’s rhythmic framework.
Yera can also play in a lithe boppish style as demonstrated on the exquisite “Are Fast Songs Pretty”. The track opens with Noguera’s unaccompanied tender shimmering pianism. The tempo picks up as the full band enters with Breaker driving the music with his thundering kit. Yera and Garcia take turns in the spotlight embellishing the melody with fiery, meandering phrases.
Just Practice is a successful first effort by all measures. It boasts a superb ensemble and highlights Yera’s creative talents to their full extend. Moreover, the variety in the material guarantees the disc’s wide appeal.