As one good album clearly deserves another, Greg Yasinitsky, who wears many hats—composer, arranger, woodwind specialist and educator among them—has released New Normal, the second impressive outing by his admirable Washington state-based ensemble, the YAZZ Band, which varies in size from septet to tentet. Unlike Yasinitsky's earlier album, YAZZ Band, which was recorded basically in one session with fixed personnel, the coronavirus pandemic upended any such plan this time, forcing an end to in-person studio sessions after five tracks had been wrapped up and prompting Yasinitsky to become more creative, calling on friends from Los Angeles, Baton Rouge and even Italy to help complete the enterprise.
Trombonist Francisco Torres answered the call from Los Angeles, pianists Willis Delony and Teo Ciavarella from Baton Rouge and Bologna, Italy, respectively, complementing Yasinitsky and a rhythm section consisting of bassist David Bjur and drummers David Jarvis or Dan Bukvich on the smaller-group numbers. The earlier (tentet) tracks were recorded in August 2019, the three remaining numbers in July and August 2020 (a testament to Yasinitsky's perseverance). Guitarist Gabe Condon joins the ensemble on "Blues for Brecker."
Having set the scene, it's time to assess the music. First, Yasinitsky is "old school" in the sense that he writes music that is melodically and harmonically pleasing and also swings. Fans of, say, Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson or Buddy Rich should have no trouble warming to these charts. The sunny opener, "G.P.," sets the pace, the tentet swinging happily forward after a stutter-stop intro on the wings of earnest solos by trumpeter Vern Sielert, Yasinitsky (on tenor), pianist Jake Svendsen and drummer David Jarvis. Yasinitsky and pianist Ciavarella are front and center on the septet's groovy "Song for Laura," Yasinitsky (soprano), Sielert, Davis and guitarist Condon on the funky and fascinating "Blues for Brecker," written for the late saxophonist Michael Brecker. The tentet returns, swinging again—albeit in a mellower vein—on another blues, this one for "A King," with engaging solos by Svendsen, Sielert, tenor saxophonist Horace Alexander Young and bassist F. David Snider.
Torres, Delony and Yasinitsky (tenor) brighten the lustrous "New Normal" before the tentet takes charge again on "Diva," "Synergetic" and "Hangtown Fry," each of which bears Yasinitsky's swashbuckling trademark. Solos on "Diva" are by Young (alto), Yasinitsky (tenor) and Jarvis; on "Synergetic" by Yasinitsky, this time on baritone; and on the edgy, flag-waving finale, "Hangtown Fry," by Yasinitsky (tenor), trombonist Dave Glenn and drummer Bukvich. If old- fashioned swinging in a contemporary wardrobe enlivens your curiosity, try the New Normal on for size and YAZZ up your life.