Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Saxophonist Randal Despommier & Pianist Jason Yeager Release "All At Onceness"

Brooklyn-based Red Piano Records have announced the release of saxophonist Randal Despommier and pianist Jason Yeager's first collaborative album, All At Onceness, a soulful mix of improvisational arrangements of Baroque, Romantic, twentieth-century, and contemporary pieces. With source material ranging from Bach to Stravinsky, Scriabin to Messiaen, these intrepid composer-improvisers stake out their own territory in a diverse program that combines folk-like melodies, evocative harmonies, and infectious rhythms. Joining the duo are three of New York's most adventurous artists: vocalist Aubrey Johnson, bassist Danny Weller, and drummer Jay Sawyer.

On April 21st at 8 PM, Despommier and Yeager will lead their band in a CD release concert/celebration at the cell theatre, located at 338 W 23rd St.

When New Orleans-born jazz alto saxophonist and classical composer Randal Despommier moved to New York City in the summer of 2013, he teamed up an with award-winning jazz pianist/composer from Boston, Jason Yeager, to explore improvisational arrangements of classical repertoire."Jason and I were both interested in building off of the jazz tradition by turning to the classical oeuvre and vice versa. During our jam sessions, we'd mess around with jazz standards, preludes by Scriabin, and folk songs; then we'd arrange, rearrange, and sometimes 'de-range' pieces, as Jason puts it; the result was what we felt to be a coming-together of various musical styles from the past and present. We decided to call this approach All At Onceness, a term coined by the Canadian media scholar, Marshall McLuhan."

Some of these "derangements" include Despommier's Cherokee-meets-Le Sacre du printemps (entitled "Rite of Cherokee"), described by the saxophonist as "something of a primal Bop dance." Yeager's version of "Danse de la fureur..." (or "Dance of Fury") is a fiery, adventurous atonal saxophone and piano/rhodes duet that draws from the sixth movement of Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. These high-octane fusion works are counterbalanced by two original compositions: Despommier's"The First Flowers," an ethereal, lyrical setting of a poem by Hermann Hesse, and Yeager's "Telekinesis,"a playful, Kafkaesque jazz vocalise interpolated with collective improvisation from the ensemble.

Critical to the standout originals are the contributions of vocalist Aubrey Johnson, who has collaborated with top artists ranging from Fred Hersch to Bobby McFerrin. Despommier notes that, "Aubrey sings with such soul and warmth; she's a real singer/poet who 'breathes life into the words' as the madrigalists would say." Johnson's moving vocal work is featured on several cuts, her exquisite tone and deep improvisational prowess particularly strong on the closing track, Despommier's arrangement of Bartók's "Bagatelle Op. 10 No. 4." In this work, following a scintillating solo by Johnson, Despommier joins the fray as a vocalist, in the majestic choral section that closes out the album.

Lighting a creative fire under the front line is the top-notch rhythm team of drummer Jay Sawyer (Freddy Cole, Itamar Borochov) and bassist Danny Weller (Jason Palmer, Radio City Music Hall Christmas Orchestra), who contribute imaginative musical commentary to "Telekinesis," "Bagatelle", and "Rite of Cherokee."  "I've worked with Jay and Danny for quite some time, and they combine an intensity and energy with supreme listening and sensitivity, which is rare," comments pianist Yeager. "I've performed with them in settings ranging from my trio to larger ensemble projects, and knew that they would be the perfect fit for what Randy and I had in mind for this recording."

Another standout track is Despommier's haunting arrangement of an ancient Icelandic religious text, "Heyr Himna Smiður," or "Hear, Smith of the Heavens," an early thirteenth-century poem by Icelandic chieftain/poet Kolbeinn Tumason, set to music in the twentieth century by Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson. Accompanied only by Yeager on piano, Johnson's superb vocal interpretation gives the track a truly celestial ethos, entrancing the listener with a captivating melodic statement.

Randal Despommieris a New York-based composer, saxophonist, and educator from New Orleans, LA. His unique and extensive background in jazz, blues, and Western classical music results in a distinct twenty first-century compositional voice. Despommier's original music ranges from contemporary art songs to jazz adaptations of Medieval and Renaissance music. His debut album, an original song cycle entitled Circus of the Soul will be released on Albany Records later this year. He directs the music program at Bard High School Early College in Manhattan and has taught jazz history with the Bard Prison Initiative.

Jason Yeager is a New York-based pianist, composer, and educator, whose music is informed by jazz improvisation, contemporary chamber music, and Latin American folk rhythms. His most recent album, United, with violinist Jason Anick, was awarded 4.5 stars and named one of 2017's top releases in Downbeat Magazine. His fourth recording as a leader, All At Onceness, with composer/saxophonist Randal Despommier, will be released on Red Piano Records in April 2018. Yeager has performed and recorded with such artists as Luciana Souza, Matt Wilson, Ayn Inserto, Linda Oh, Greg Osby, Sara Serpa, and George Garzone, and has performed across the US and abroad in Argentina, Panama, and South Africa. In addition to his performance and composition work, Yeager teaches piano at Berklee College of Music. 

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