By Ed Enright | Published June 2018
Rocky Yera issues an invitation to exhilaration with the release of his debut album.
The Chicago-based tenor saxophonist whips up a whirlwind of excitement and mines the depths of sentimentality on Just Practice, a showcase for his formidable chops, improvisational daring, skillful writing and mastery of electronic effects. An ace instrumentalist who won two DownBeat Student Music Awards back in his high school and college days, Yera has crafted a unique voice for himself by processing his sound with guitar pedals and manipulating the effects in real time. Saxophonist Jeff Coffin, whose own experiments with electronics inspired Yera to explore new sonic possibilities, makes a guest appearance on “Mr. J.C. And The Baby Maker,” his funky alto contribution seriously upping the thrill factor.
The small-group instrumentation of Just Practice varies from track to track as Yera surrounds himself with peers of the highest order, most notably trumpeter Victor Garcia, organist Pete Benson, guitarist Aaron Lebos, pianist Darwin Noguera, bassist Josh Ramos and drummers Juan Pastor and Xavier Breaker. The all-original program features a balance of straightahead acoustic bebop, syncopated Latin grooves and electrified contemporary jazz-funk. For those seeking respite from the forward-leaning urgency that propels much of Just Practice, dig the laid-back swinger “Good Old Songs” and the feel-good, down-home vibe of the title track, where Yera reveals the jaw-dropping expanse of his altissimo range.