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The Matthew Yeakley Group: Clean Numbers & Dirty Words

Paul Naser By

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The electric guitar has a history of players with fierce energy, and L.A. based guitarist Matthew Yeakley fits right into this tradition. Having studied with jazz guitar legends Scott Henderson and Jimmy Wyble, Yeakley has a refreshing blend of modern influence and tradition; he also cut his teeth performing in blues clubs in his native San Diego, which might explain how he is so adept with both blues licks and bebop vernacular. His formidable debut as a leader, the double disc Clean Numbers & Dirty Words (Orenda, 2014), showcases his compositional talents and provides a platform for the band to display its members' respective talents and their collective chemistry.

Clean Numbers starts with the high energy "Missed It." The active, angular guitar melody is accentuated by a rhythmic counter line played by tenor saxophonist Zane Musa and Matt Politano on Fender Rhodes, and the solo section builds on the intensity established by the theme as what starts as a piano solo turns into a group improvisation. The driving vibe of "Missed It" can be found in many of Yeakley's compositions, including the longest track on this disc, "Fitness," which includes a remarkable solo by Musa that is a highlight of the album.

Yeakley's writing is wide in scope and explores many different atmospheres and moods with a forward thinking sensibility. Tunes such as his "Periculum N" and the short and sweet "Gaudium N" on Dirty Words explore a variety of textures and sounds through free improvisation. The group navigates his songs in mixed or odd meters with ease, examples being "Peru," with two sections in 11 and 5 respectively, and the beautiful "Peppers" whose melody and vibe are among the most memorable on the Clean Numbers disc.

Some of the most compelling tracks on the album are the funky, groove-based cuts such as "A Place to Call Home" on Clean Numbers and the hard edged, rock influenced tunes like "Happy Fuckin' New Year" from Dirty Words, which features one of Yeakley's best solos on the album. It is on tunes like these that bassist Cooper Appelt and drummer Aaron McLendon deserve a mention for their incredible contributions. They both lay down a solid foundation and shape the contour of the tunes. Evoking John Scofield and Charles Altura, the influence of fusion players on Yeakley is apparent in both his compositions and sound. His aggressive tone has the perfect amount of grit to steer the in your face energy that his fellow band mates bring. The band can swing too; as evidenced by tracks like "It Felt Like a Sunday" and "I Wish I Could've Known You Better," he gathered some of L.A.'s finest jazz musicians on this outing.

Dirty Words has the album's most meditative tunes. The beautiful "Deanna" and "Sadhana" feature vocalists Gina Saputo and Jesse Palter respectively, and their gorgeous tone and ability to blend lends the melodies another level of depth and character. "The Valerie Tune" features an exceptional intro by Yeakley and an outstanding solo by trumpeter Mike Cottone.

Clean Numbers & Dirty Words is an impressive debut album from a talented up and coming artist. Fans of modern guitar are sure to love the compositions and fiery playing by everyone involved on these discs.

Track Listing: Missed It; Interlude 1; A Place to Call Home; Peppers;Periculum n.; Fitness; Interlude 2; Peru; It Felt Like a Sunday; Deanna; Interlude A; I Wish I Could Have Known You Better; Interlude B; Sadhana; Happy Fuckin' New Year; Gaudium n.; The Valerie Tune

Personnel: Matthew Yeakley: Guitar; Matt Politano: Piano/Rhodes; Cooper Appelt: Bass; Aaron McLendon: Drums; Zane Musa: Tenor Sax; Mike Cottone: Trumpet; Gina Saputo: Voice (Deanna); Jesse Palter: Voice (Sadhana)

Title: Clean Numbers & Dirty Words | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Orenda Records


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