The Pacific Northwest is probably not the location most people have in mind when it comes to forward-thinking, well-executed jazz. Except, with Greg Yasinitsky’s new album, “Yazz Band,” perhaps they should. The saxophonist is based in Washington state and a great deal of his professional life from playing music to teaching is related to the area. Nonetheless, “Yazz Band” finds Yasinitsky taking on a range of means to explore the boundaries of jazz. From eighth notes to modals, to blues, there is never a dull moment on this album full of seamless exchanges between instrument groups.
“Yazz Band” is a collection of originals composed, arranged and produced by Yasinitsky. There are so many styles of jazz on this album of nine songs that listening to it is much like getting a lesson in jazz developments.
While all of the songs have their own merits and are certainly worth listening to, audiences miss out if they do not spend time on “Full Blown” and “Gator Tail.”
About Greg Yasinitsky
As a composer, Yasinitsky is prolific and popular. His work is performed in more than 40 countries. As a working musician, Yasinitsky can be heard on more than 50 recordings. The recordings represent various record labels and include some for his own Yazz Recordings.
Yasinitsky’s hard work has resulted in a plethora of awards. Among the honors and accolades the saxophonist has received are those from ASCAP, National Endowment for the Arts, the Washington State Music Teachers Association and the Washington Music Educators Award and many others.
In his recording career, Yasinitsky has played with Ed Calle, Marcus Printup, Sarah Vaughn, Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Lou Rawls, Lionel Hampton, Manhattan Transfer and others.
The sound of “Yazz Band” by Greg Yasinitsky
The contemporary big band that Yasinitsky has assembled to form the Yazz Band is comprised of 15 members, including Yasinitsky. The group’s full sound is created through the use of several representatives of each instrument type, including trumpets, trombones, saxophones, drums and flugelhorns. Piano and bass are each represented by one player.
While Yazz Band is not the biggest group, the sound is rich and engaging. Some of the faster songs take on an almost muscular feel and listeners can easily get swept away in the energy they exude. But the work isn’t necessarily showy – – it is full of various dynamics. Each note pushes the song a little bit further. Audiences can catch on quickly to motifs used in each track, and all of the songs have logical endings and often danceable trajectories.
“Full Blown” by Greg Yasinitsky
A blare of horns, a driven bass, and persistent piano keeps this song moving. The upright bass showcase is a nice touch. Its nimble notes contrast nicely with the piano accents. The song picks up the pace again and a trumpet soars over the soundscape. The swing full is unmistakable. In another motif, deep registered saxophones play a series of notes and are copied by other horns. The drums tsk briskly, until it is time for the horns tot play long notes. There is a back and forth feel. Everything is brought together by the end and the final drum roll brings the exciting piece to its close.
“Gator Tail” by Greg Yasinitsky
The song kicks open with drums and horns. Immediately it calms down and the horns play a motif that sounds like it came from a mid-century movie score. Yasinitsky seems to have a flare for swaying passages that are suddenly kicked into high energy by the change of dynamics of either drums or horns. The bass here works well as a foundation instrument. The trumpet showcase mixes up the to this point expected soundscape. The kick-y rhythm kept up by the drums and bass is a nice touch. The horn flare sounds like movement, and it is easy for listeners to lose themselves in the best way possible here.
With a serious grounding as a musician, educator, composer and arranger, Yasinitsky has compiled nine songs with serious flare and application of jazz developments. The result is fun listening for the experienced and inexperienced jazz fan alike.