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John Yao and His 17-Piece Instrument


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The drawing on the cover of John Yao's new album depicts arms, hands, faces, trombones, saxophones, drums, a piano, and more all fused together into an abstract musical mash-up. It's a fitting visual for what Yao calls his 17-Piece Instrument. The band's new album reveals just how appropriate that title is. Yao's compositions are wildly complex, and his arrangements are imbued with the freedom of a far smaller ensemble, verging on the avant-garde. But his band plays them so tightly, you'd think it was one multi-headed hydra.

Yao is a trombonist who has worked with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Paquito D'Rivera, and more. He's gotten to know the best players in New York and they're part of his "instrument." Sprinkled throughout the album are masterful solos by Jesse Stacken on piano; Jon Irabagon, Rich Perry, John O'Gallagher and others on sax; Andy Gravish, David Smith, and others on trumpet; and Yao, Louis Bonilla, and others on trombone. When they play together, hold on tight for one of the wildest rides ever to shake up the big band genre.