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Album Review

John Yao: Off-Kilter

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John Yao: Off-Kilter
In all great ensemble recordings one pays no attention to the compositions and arrangements. The music just seems to dance without inhibitions and flow over the ears. Correction: excellent ensemble performances compel one to recognize and appreciate the compositions and arrangements. With composer, arranger, trombonist John Yao both statements are true and both are in opposition to each other. Proof being Off-Kilter, the second release by his Triceratops ensemble. It follows How We Do (See Tao Recordings, 2019) and includes his three horn front line of himself, plus saxophonists Billy Drewes and Jon Irabagon. Also returning is drummer Mark Ferber and here, bassist Robert Sabin replaces Peter Brendler.

Yao's compositions balance this construction/deconstruction with a casualness that hides the complexity of his music. "Labyrinth" is packed with stop/starts and grooves that Rahsaan Roland Kirk would have been pleased to negotiate. Same can be said for "Below The High Rise," the one composition penned by Drewes, which puts one in mind of the sound of a Henry Threadgill recording. Yao pushes the density of the sound and the fun factor in equal measure. "Crosstalk," which opens with his trombone solo, is reminiscent of the great theme songs to television's 1970s detective programs. It's funk is filtered by that in-the-know hipness that was Starsky & Hutch or Kojak. None of this fresh fun could be accomplished without the musicians Yao chose for this ensemble. They weave the ballad "Quietly" around Sabin's steady bass line interworking horns into pleasing patterns. The two "Interludes" feature Ferber's tuneful drumming, and as listeners expect, Yao's penchant for beguiling arrangements.

Track Listing

Below The High Rise; Labyrinth; Interlude No. 1; Quietly; Crosstalk; Unfiltered; the Morphing Line; Interlude No. 2; Off-Kilter.

Personnel

John Yao: trombone; Billy Drewes: saxophone; Jon Irabagon: saxophone, alto; Mark Ferber: drums; Robert Sabin: bass.

Album information

Title: Off-Kilter | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: See Tao Recordings


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