A Pair of Jasons at The Blue Note


Jason Anick and Jason Yeager at The Blue Note in NYC 5/21/17

Sunday brunch at NYC’s premier jazz club -The Blue Note - paired hot jazz with a hot breakfast as Jason Anick and Jason Yeager, backed by a first-rate group of musicians, celebrated the release of their new project, United. Looking like college students themselves, this pair of Jasons have musical chops valid enough to have earned them faculty positions at Berkley College of Music - and the set of originals and covers performed here testify to not just their technical ability but to tasteful playing that reflects a respect for not just the American jazz tradition, but for a wide range of musical influences. Starting things off with Yearger’s “Harlem Hoedown,” the soloists were tight but swinging, occasionally firing off delightful violin/sax phrases in perfect harmony, while the rhythm section provided a solid network of bass and percussion.

Anick on violin and mandolin, and Yeager on piano, were joined by bassist Greg Loughman and drummer Mike Conners, forming a well-rounded quartet occasionally joined by special guest Clay Lyons on sax. The combined sound was warm and full, with Yeager often seeming as if he had more than ten fingers on the keyboard at any given moment, creating rich textures and playful melodic runs.

Anick’s “Bird’s Eye View” was a lively romp featuring some dizzying harmony between the violin and sax as well as some tasty pizzicato. Some musical travelogueing was featured next, via Yeager’s “Achi,” an Israeli-inspired piece, then “La Segunda,” a tune summoning sound pictures of Buenos Aires and featuring our first taste of Anick on mandolin.

Anick, well-known as an astounding violinist in the Stephane Grappelli mold, was equally amazing on mandolin, playing the instrument with passion and articulation enough to make most standard guitar players envious. Seeing The Beatles’ “Something” on the set list I was expecting a rendition similar to Grappelli’s tender version of “Here, There, and Everywhere.” Anick instead picked up the mandolin and launched into a mesmerizing legato mandolin solo that lead into the George Harrison tune, which opened up into a full-band arrangement that explored different tempos and picking up a familiar lick from McCartney’s iconic bass line as a recurring theme.

Some tricky timing on Jason Anick’s “Well Red” offered Yeager some space for a wonderful piano solo. The bass and drums got their shining solo moments in Yeager’s Slaughterhouse Five-inspired “Blues for Billy Pilgrim,” bringing well-earned applause from the house.

Finally, Anick’s tribute to banjo-wizard Bela Fleck (appropriately titled “Bela”) ended the set with elegant solo and rhythm work on the mandolin and some surprising piano lines played with Yeager reaching into the piano to dampen the strings as the notes were struck.

Anick and Yeager are extraordinary musicians that allow the music to speak for itself. The music is accessible but has plenty of depth to explore, challenging and stimulating at the same time. If this was a preview celebration of United, let’s hope that this pair of Jasons unite more often.

Words and images – Bert Saraco

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