In the Now
In the Now
Jackson Heights, NY
In the Now, the debut album from the John Yao Quintet, signals the definitive arrival of trombonist and composer, John Yao. Demonstrating a broad textural palette and drawing from an array of stylistic influences, Yao explores the concept of opposing forces—of chaos and order, together and apart, individual and group. Each of the album’s eight tracks bears a unique identity, ranging from hard-hitting, experimental jazz to ballads that exude passion, tenderness, complexity, and understanding. In the Now is a musical journey beyond conventional jazz form and structure, with the ensemble winding skillfully through a wide range of moods, colors, and textures.
The title track unleashes a tight but frenzied rhythm section that supports both a simple flowing melody and unfettered, dynamic solos. On tracks like “Divisions” and “Funky Sunday,” Yao floats rubato melodies over compelling grooves. In addition to funk vamps, modal jams, post-bop melodies, and driving swing, the John Yao Quintet also executes two lyrical ballads: the seductive love song “For NDJ” and the somber yet colorful “Shorter Days.” Produced by Grammy Award-winning Vanguard Jazz Orchestra’s Luis Bonilla, the John Yao Quintet executes Yao’s distinctive compositions with intensity and presence.
Performances by the John Yao Quintet are being planned for Spring and Summer 2012 following the album’s release (including April 25th at Cornelia Street Cafe). The band features 2011 DownBeat Critics Poll Rising Star winner and critically acclaimed saxophonist, Jon Irabagon; and recipient of the 2007 ASCAP Young Jazz Composer’s award, the much-lauded pianist, Randy Ingram. Yao also enlisted the time-keeping talents of Will Clark, winner of the 2006 John and Alice Coltrane Foundation Scholarship; and guardian of upright rhythm, Leon Boykins, who recently earned his master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music.
Owing to his versatility as a trombonist, composer, and arranger, Yao has enjoyed a steady rise on the New York City jazz scene since arriving from his native Chicago. In addition to the the John Yao Quintet, Yao founded, directs and performs in the Yaozeki Big Band, while also working as a sideman for such iconic bands as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. Yao received his master’s degree in jazz performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College in 2007, and currently resides in Jackson Heights, Queens.
"Yao ... makes an auspicious debut as a leader here ... [The group] enjoy a copasetic rapport on potent offerings like 'Divisions,' which shifts in and out of a churning 12/8 Afro-Caribbean groove and double-timed 4/4 swing, and the ominous, organ-fueled groover 'Funky Sunday.' ... 'Not Even Close' and 'Pink Eye' incorporate an insistently swinging Jazz Messengers vibe while also stepping into the free-rider zone at times, and the tempo-accelerating 'Snafu' may be Yao’s most original composition of the bunch. The trombonist reveals golden tones and lyrical tendencies on his stirring ballad 'Shorter Days.'"
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"[A]n album of intelligently constructed pieces that give his powerful quintet plenty of room to display its skills. … The group possesses a forceful sound, giving the impression, at times, that a much bigger ensemble is at work as the band members deftly trade solos, combine and contrast lines, and shift tempos and rhythms. … "Funky Sunday" erupts from the outset and never lets up as Yao and saxophonist Jon Irabagon provide hard-hitting solos that pit their individual voices against each other expertly. "In the Now" stands out as well for its varied tempos, impressionistic departures, surprising turns, and a fantastic drum solo by Will Clark. Noteworthy as much for the animated delivery as the quality of the composition, the album's closing "Snafu" gives all the players free rein to let loose. Here, Irabagon again showcases his flexibility by delivering a cacophony of squalls that paint an aural picture of collision befitting the tune's title. … Spirited and well-executed, In the Now bristles with energy." [FULL ARTICLE]
BIRD IS THE WORM
"Wow. [In the Now is] Trombonist John Yao’s debut album, and it is damn strong. Featuring Jon Irabagon on soprano, Yao weaves a deliciously textured album that seems of greater fullness than five instruments could create on their own. Songs like “Shorter Days” are just so joyful. One of those albums where there’s a lot going on, plenty of complexities, yet remains inherently listenable … An album for old and new school jazz fans alike, and a terribly promising sign that this is Yao’s debut album. I’m already looking forward to hearing what comes next." [FULL ARTICLE]
"The debut release from the John Yao Quintet is more than the start of an artistic odyssey for Yao. In The Now is a magnificent musical display of the passion of not just creating music in the moment but is a look at the development and application of the creative process of an incredible young talent and his horn. Sonic texture, brilliant colors and moving beyond conventional form and function with purpose and direction has In The Now as a gem for 2012 and a release one should not overlook!" [FULL ARTICLE]
GAPPLEGATE MUSIC REVIEW
"A trombonist and composer of talent, vision and stature. In the Now brings together some excellent players for a program of modern jazz that looks forward … The compositions have substance, providing the improvisations with a set of contrasting frameworks that serve as launching and reference points throughout … The album is a winner! Give a listen." [FULL ARTICLE]
"The mix of trombone and alto make for some delicious harmonies in the front line … these guys mix their adventurous solos with some riffs and seques that keep you hanging in there with them. Songs like “Divisions” have that classic Mingusy feel where the band swings like there’s no tomorrow ... you can feel them tipping over the edge, and just never quite falling into the abyss. [F]or the more courageous swinger."
"In the Now … blends vivid tunefulness, clever composition and inspired teamwork. It’s accessible, but it’s also cerebral, and there’s also considerable wit here … Yao’s arrangements and voicings are original, imaginative and completely in the here and now."
ALL ABOUT JAZZ ITALIA
“… the fifty minutes of In the Now [are] held together by a remarkable communicative power that reveals a great sense of form, dynamic balance, tonal variety, ease of performance. The quintet, guided with confidence by the young trombone player, moves confidently through the potential pitfalls of an often complex and layered piece which the leader’s skill in arrangement transforms into flowing, delightful music.”
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Freedom and streamlined focus don't often get along on jazz recordings, but when they do, it can make for an inspired outing. Trombonist John Yao managed to merge these divergent pathways into a single direction on his debut album, creating a flavorful feast for the senses. Yao's music is teeming with danger and uncertainty ... In The Now is a solid first step that marks him as one to watch. This is compelling music that straddles down-the-middle modernism and the great beyond." [FULL ARTICLE]