Tiny Reviews: John Yao, Shamie Royston, Raf Ferrari 4tet, & Jazz Lunch

Tiny Reviews, featuring:  John Yao Quintet In the Now, Shamie Royston Portraits, Raf Ferrari 4tet Venere e Marte, and Jazz Lunch Housewarming.

A strong group of albums from a very strong batch of new releases.  A couple of these albums, had I the time, I’d probably write far more extensive reviews.  I might still.  But for now, here’s some Tiny Reviews, some which aren’t quite that tiny and don’t much resemble anymore what I initially wrote for eMusic.  Of course, that’s been happening more and more lately.  Anyways, let’s begin…


John Yao Quintet – In the Now

Wow. Trombonist John Yao’s debut album, and it is damn strong.  Featuring Jon Irabagon on soprano, Yao weaves a deliciously textured album that seems of greater fullness than five instruments could create on their own. Songs like “Shorter Days” are just so joyful.  Yao also leads the Yaozeki Big Band, which must inform his approach to the quintet based on the depth of In the Now.

Your album personnel:  John Yao (trombone), Jon Irabagon (Alto & Soprano Saxes), Randy Ingram (Piano), Leon Boykins (Bass) and Will Clark (Drums).

One of those albums where there’s a lot going on, plenty of complexities, yet remains inherently listenable.  An engaging album that you can just sit back and enjoy.  An album for old and new school jazz fans alike, and a terribly promising sign that this is Yao’s debut album.  I’m already looking forward to hearing what comes next.

Jazz from the Queens scene in NYC.

Released on the Innova Recordings label.

Download a free album track from AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist and label.

Available at eMusic.


Shamie Royston – Portraits

Very enjoyable debut album for pianist Shamie Royston.  Leading a trio with Ivan Taylor on bass and Rudy Royston on drums.  A nice set of straight-ahead jazz.  Not a weak link in the trio, and they all have some strong moments on the album.  Royston’s solo sections are especially beautiful.  There’s nothing quite like a solid piano trio album when Spring is in the air.

I couldn’t find anything to embed, but there is one track available to stream on Royston’s site (linked to above).

The album is Self-Produced.  Jazz from the Piscataway, New Jersey scene.

Available at eMusic.


Raf Ferrari 4tet – Venere e Marte

Stunningly beautiful chamber jazz recording. A quartet of piano, cello, bass, and drums, with a guest clarinet. While more chamber than jazz, there are moments that flirt with a swing, and plenty of tunes here to satisfy a jazz fix.  Mostly though, it’s just a sublime series of compositions that ask nothing less than to fall head over heels in love with them.

Your album personnel:  Raf Ferrari (piano), Vito Stano (cello), Guerino Rondolone (doublebass), Claudio Sbrolli (drums), and guest: Gabriele Mirabassi (clarinet).

The album starts strong, and really seems to catch its stride as it develops.  When Mirabassi sits in with clarinet, like on “Fou de Love,” it adds texture that elevates the track up to an even higher level than that set by the quartet.  A track like “Capelli Di Sagoma” with its shifts in tempo make for an addicting sensation, not too far removed from methods employed by ECM artists Marcin Wasilewski and Matthias Eick to great success.  The cello isn’t used just to play “the sad parts” of songs; Stano lets the cello lift its voice plenty, giving tunes a sense of good cheer as often as a sorrowful wail.  Ferrari has a nice touch on the keys, and really should develop a strong following, especially in the aforementioned ECM fan crowd.

Over the course of the last month, this album has got its hooks deeper into me, and it’s starting to become a daily listening habit.

Jazz from the Rome, Italy scene.

Released on the Dodicilune label.

Available at eMusic.


Jazz Lunch – Housewarming

Nice large group recording.  Tunes have plenty of swing, but there’s an undercurrent of rainy day music to it all. Song “Jarmul” is terribly pretty and melancholy.  For the most part, it’s straight-ahead modern jazz.  Nifty little find, these guys are.  Apparently recorded the entire album in one sitting in their living room.

Your album personnel:  Dan Ryan (guitar, compositions), Jon Birkholz (piano, compositions), Ben Frock (trumpet), Brent Madsen (trumpet), Eric Trudel (saxophone), Gary Thomas (saxophone), Chad Hochberg (drums), and Frank Russo (drums).

Jazz from the Baltimore, MD scene.

Released on the Reoccurring Dreams Records label.

You can stream the album on their bandcamp page.

Download a free album track from AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artists.

Available at eMusic.



That’s it for today’s article.  This is the first set of Tiny Reviews from this batch.  There’ll probably be three more sets from the batch, but we’ll have to see.  Several of the albums I’ll probably be doing stand-alone reviews of, depending on how much time I have.

Here’s some language to protect eMusic’s rights as the one to hire me originally to scour through the jazz new arrivals and write about the ones I like:

“New Arrivals Jazz Picks“, courtesy of eMusic.com, Inc.
© 2012  eMusic.com, Inc.

My thanks to eMusic for the freelance writing gig, the opportunity to use it in this blog, and the editorial freedom to help spread the word about cool new jazz being recorded today.