Anick and Yeager “United” on New Album

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UNITED / YEAGER: Achi.4 Harlem Hoedown.1, 5 Sweet Pea.4 La Segunda.5 ANICK: Bird’s Eye View.2, 4 Well Red.1, 4 SEIFERT: Stillness. Turbulent Plover.3, 4 HARRISON: Something.4 DAVIS: All Blues / Jason Anick, vln/mand; Jason Yeager, pno; 1Jason Palmer, tpt; 2Clay Lyons, a-sax; 3George Garzone, t-sax; 4Greg Loughman, 5John Lockwood, bass; 4Mike Connors, dm; 5Jerry Leake, perc / Inner Circle Music (no number)

Here’s a sort of “New Age” violin-piano duo, Jason Anick and Jason Yeager (three of the musicians on this CD are products of the Jennifer-Josh-Jason Generation), playing laid-back jazz with a twist. The twist is the series of tricky, often asymmetrical rhythms they set up for themselves, but there is more to it than that. Despite the modern slant to their music, Anick (who also plays mandolin) and Yeager, friends since they were teenagers, have locked into each others’ musical thinking so well that when they play a series of solos it’s like the old days when musicians actually listened to one another and thus continued a musical thought from one solo to the next. When was the last time you heard jazz like that?

This series of originals by Yeager, Anick and Zbigniew Siefert includes one tune each by George Harrison and Miles Davis and an eclectic backup band that sometimes includes a horn soloist. The promo sheet accompanying this release indicates that Anick is “a linchpin of the acclaimed neo-Gypsy ensemble, Rhythm Future Quartet.” I’ll give you three guesses who they’re modeled after, and the first two don’t count. As I pointed out in my profile of Django Reinhardt, it almost boggles the mind how incredibly popular knockoffs of his original Hot Club Quintette are out there in the jazz scene nowadays, where before 1972 no such groups existed in this country! Even in these somewhat more modern settings, allusions to the Grappelli-Reinhardt duo abound, never more so than in Anick’s original Bird’s Eye View. There’s a hint of a rock beat in Well Red, but their tendency to work with asymmetrical rhythms keep up one’s interest despite this reference. Pianist Yeager sets up a series of repetitive triplets to underscore an excellent trumpet solo by Jason Palmer, following which the entire band falls away to allow Yeager to play a fascinating single-note solo in slow triplets, eventually joined by Loughman on bass and then Mike Connors on drums. Surprisingly, the tune ends in the middle of a cadence.

Stillness is the first of two duo-only performances on the album (the other is Davis’ All Blues), and it is in the style known as ambient jazz. It sort of meanders along in its fluttery sort of way, with Anick playing tremolos on the violin and Yeager tinkling in the background. Harlem Hoedown combines strong drumming by percussionist Jerry Leake with Palmer’s trumpet, with the Anick-Yeager duo taking a back seat for much of the track. The hornist is in a bebop mood here, sounding quite a bit like Red Rodney in his prime. Interestingly, when Yeager enters he again brings the mood down to a quiet place, but this time he slowly builds up the tempo and pressure until Anick comes in on violin. (It sounds to me that Anick is playing either an electric or at least an amplified violin, because his tone is not always pure.) This is one of his most brilliant solos on the album, inspired and innovative.

Harrison’s Something begins in the same tempo as the original Beatles version, but sounds a bit strange with Anick’s mandolin replacing electric guitar. Then the tempo doubles, the rhythm section begins to swing, and we’re in a different world as Yeager gets into a fine groove on piano, playing in a surprisingly bluesy manner. When Anick re-enters he, too, is swinging, but a bit more in a jazz-bluegrass sort of mold. By contrast, Turbulent Plover is all bop from the very first notes, played by George Garzone on tenor sax, although the quirky melody has an odd sort of Middle Eatsern feel to it. Anick really flies on this one, reminding me strongly of some of Stéphane Grappelli’s latter-day work. Garzone is all over his instrument in his solo, stretching the envelope in an exciting way. This is good stuff!

Yeager’s Sweet Pea is a gentle ballad, evidently a tribute to the great Billy Strayhorn, with certain touches in his playing reminiscent of the way Duke Ellington would round off phrases. Anick seems to be paying tribute to the vastly underrated Ray Nance, who was often Strayhorn’s chosen voice for his melodies, in his first solo; the second again seems to be channeling Grappelli. Predictably, La Segunda has a Latin beat, but a very laid-back one, again featuring Anick on the mandolin. His playing on this instrument is more delicate and less innately “jazzy” than his violin solos, but it suits this particular track.

All Blues, the closer, begins with violin tremolos underscored by piano trinkles, after which Yeager plays a syncopated, moving bass line behind the violin solo. Then it is his turn to solo, adding sparse but bluesy figures in the right hand as Anick accompanies him. When the violinst comes back for his solo, he is highly imaginative, letting Yeager finds his own way to weave in and out of his improvisation. Quite a finale!

The relaxed, laid-back creativity of this music makes it a perfect bluesy-rainy-day album.

—© 2017 Lynn René Bayley

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