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Friday, January 17, 2020

CD Review: Jason Yeager - New songs of Resistance

(Review by Dave Brownlow)

New Songs Of Resistance is Professor of Piano at Berklee  College of Music Jason Yeager’s latest mix of protest, jazz, classical and Latin American folk music. It is his attempt to draw more attention to the anger and confusion felt by the peoples of Latin America and the United States in their current situation. Jason attempts to speak truth through the power of music in the form of resistance as previously achieved by such jazz masters as John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Max Roach in the not-too-distant past.

In his group he uses three distinct vocalists and a sextet of accomplished, like-minded musicians who perform with authenticity and fire in an album of thirteen tracks of original compositions and songs from four Latin American composers using the original Spanish and Portuguese lyrics as a sign of respect.

Gracias a la Vida features Erini’s first vocal – clear-toned, cool yet passionately delivered. Fleet solos from the leader, trumpeter Boni and drummer Walker are integrated with ensemble passages using flugelhorn, cello, trumpet, clarinet and bass-clarinet over a strong rhythmic pulse with Latin melancholia. The Facts is a fiery, ominous, unsettling performance with a jarring melody/vocal of clashing melodic intervals from Malek over a march-style rhythm. Erini again handles the plaintive vocal on Somos Cinco Mil a sombre, highly-charged, dramatic original from Yeager. An Arabic-influenced cello solo against the leader’s ‘Tyneresque’ chords provides a most emotive moment. Interlude: Uncovering is a brief, gentle piano solo in an ‘Impressionist-style’ using Debussy-influenced chords and note patterns.

Another Yeager piece Mother Earth is a more contemporary composition dominated by a long declamatory trumpet solo from Boni and a workout from the composer himself whose next song, In Search Of Truth, has Malek speaking the writers uncomfortable lyrics – “Do you deny the past? Do you deny the truth? Do you deny the warming planet? We must be better than this!” This piece is reminiscent of a George Russell composition – avant-garde in conception with a challenging format. A calm start increasingly becomes more agitated – a disturbing listen indeed which also includes a “conversation” between wordless vocal and piano as its finale. A second solo piano solo Interlude: Resistance is an improvisation over a two-chord vamp, leading us to a stunning track Cinco Sylos Igual where again Erini handles the vocal. A mournful minor theme – the words came from songwriter Victor Jara just before he and thousands of other Chilean intelligentsia were murdered by Pinochet in 1973 in the Santiago Stadium. Protest has the background noise of a crowd ‘protest march’ and the piano/bass/drums trio incorporates stabbing, clashing chords in a short but effective track. 

Reckoning has a cold, word-less vocal from Malek setting the scene for clarinet, piano and drum solos. The last solo piano interlude Interlude:Factitudes  has a brooding, sombre intensity with Yeager’s very effective use of the whole of the piano range giving it dissonance.The album ends on a cheerful note with a Samba-style Apesar de Voce with Mirella Costa taking her only featured vocal  in a more overtly ‘jazzy’ offering. The leader provides a melodically appropriate solo which gives this final track an optimistic feel – pointing to better days ahead.  

“New Songs of Resistance” is on Outside In Music OIM 1924  and is available now from – outsideinmusic.com    or
Jasonyeager.com                                              
Dave Brownlow

Jason Yeager (piano/leader/writer/arranger); Fernando Huergo (electric bass); Mark Walker (drums/perc) + Milena Casado (flugel 1,5,9.); Cosimo Boni (trumpet 2,6,); Matthew Stubbs (clarinet & bass clarinet 1,2,5,9,11); Naseem Alatrash (cello 1,3,5,9); Erini, Mirella Costa, Farayi Malek (voices).

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