Meshing the outsized gifts of violinist and mandolinist Jason Anick and pianist Jason Yeager, United (to be released March 10, 2017 on saxophonist and jazz visionary Greg Osby's Inner Circle Music label) demonstrates how effectively today's most creative musical artists bloom outside the constrictions of genre and idiom. Rejecting the confining roles of strict categorization, the album draws on the wide swath of musical interests of its co-leaders, blending straight-ahead and post-bop jazz, world music, funk and pop, eagerly embracing what Anick and Yeager have defined as "jazz without borders." Displaying the virtuosic talents of both of these formidable instrumentalists, United also makes a thoroughly convincing claim for their roles as imaginative composers and inclusive conceptualists.
Where Anick may be best known as a lynchpin of the acclaimed neo-Gypsy Jazz ensemble, Rhythm Future Quartet, and Yeager is a recognized exemplar of post-bop and third stream piano, their first project as co-leaders doesn't place either in strictly familiar roles. Primarily utilizing bassist Greg Loughman and drummer Mike Connors, as well as valued guests including the saxophonists George Garzone and Clay Lyons, trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist John Lockwood and percussionist Jerry Leake, United is a shining example of how the two Jasons engage the jazz tradition while gleefully expanding its purview.
The album roams freely among musical idioms, utilizing Israeli-inspired rhythms for the propulsive "Achi" and making vivid use of the Argentine chacarera beat for "La Segunda"; waxing a lyrical homage to Billy Strayhorn ("Sweet Pea"); training a rhythmically shifting gaze on George Harrison's "Something"; romping on the new jazz tribute to Joshua Redman, "Well Red"; duetting on a loping version of the Miles Davis standard, "All Blues"; and essaying two post-bop excursions by the innovative Polish jazz violinist Zbigniew Seifert (one of which, "Turbulent Power," features the saxophone avatar George Garzone.) This stylistic diversity frees the leaders, allowing each to explore surprising and eminently satisfying aspects of their musical personalities.
For Anick and Yeager-friends since their teenage years, frequent collaborators, and now fellow Berklee instructors-United is both an artistic culmination of a long personal association and a statement of a shared musical aesthetic. "The album has been a great outlet for both of us," says Anick. "We get to stretch our instrumental voices within different contexts. We've always been in sync in terms of a creative vision where melody is never sacrificed to the demands of improvisation. We both believe that you can express yourself within the context of a song. There's a chemistry between us that allows us to create very special sonic soundscapes together."
"The album was also a means to honor and feature trusted musical associates and Berklee colleagues," says Yeager. "Clay Lyons, featured on "Bird's Eye View", Jerry Leake, and the third Jason, Jason Palmer, as well as Greg Loughman, Mike Connors and John Lockwood are all fantastic players who deserve wider recognition. For his part, George Garzone is just a force of nature!" Indeed, the project's Berklee ties are manifest: Recorded by Professor Mark Wessel through a faculty grant at the college's state-of-the-art studios, Garzone, Lockwood, Palmer and Leake are all Berklee professors, and alto saxophonist Lyons is an alum.
Even with guests contributing so significantly to the success of the project, it always came back to the creative symbiosis of the co-leaders. "We were looking for different colors to add to the music, says Yeager, "but it was the thread that exists between us, that held United together."
One of the youngest instructors at Boston's Berklee College of Music and an award winning composer, Jason Anick is a co-founder and a featured member of the Rhythm Future Quartet, one of the preeminent neo-Gypsy Jazz outfits; he also leads his own contemporary jazz ensemble, and performs with the Grammy-winning guitarist John Jorgenson. With performances all over the world and renowned venues like the Montreal Jazz Festival, Blue Note, Scullers Jazz Club, Yoshi's Jazz Club, and TD Garden, Jason has proven himself to be a leader in the ever-growing contemporary string world. Anick's recordings as a leader include Sleepless, Tipping Point, and Travels.
Now based in New York City, Jason Yeager (whose own albums include Ruminations and Affirmation) has considerable personal and professional ties to the New England area where he was born and raised. Currently teaching at Boston's Berklee College of Music, where he is also one of the college's youngest faculty members, Yeager graduated with honors from a double degree program at Tufts University and New England Conservatory. At NEC he was mentored by such significant instrumentalists as Danilo Perez, Fred Hersch, Ran Blake, Frank Carlberg, Jerry Bergonzi and John McNeil. He has performed across the US and abroad in Argentina, South Africa, and Botswana. Among the artists with whom Yeager has performed are Greg Osby, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Linda Oh, Sara Serpa, Ayn Inserto and Ran Blake. He's also featured on Jason Anick's Tipping Point.