The Jazz Arts Group kicks off its 2014-2015 Inside Track season with a special performance by the Dan White Sextet on Friday, September 12th, at 8pm at the Lincoln Theatre (tickets available here). Most of the members of this jazz-funk dynamo have relocated to New York City this year, but the group is returning to the city it was founded for the premiere performance of Your Song, the band’s 3rd album. This album is the culmination of a JAG-commissioned educational project through the Jazz in Schools program where the group’s founding members and talented composers/arrangers Dan White, Jon Lampley, and Chris Ott took a two-week roadtrip last year in which they traveled across the country gathering the stories of musicians whose careers have been spent in the tradition of the blues. The stories and experiences they gained on this trip inspired an album of new material, which was recorded this past November at Fort Hayes High School, and the result is some of their best work to date.
The album kicks off strongly with the stately title track, led by the interweaving lines of the horn section, which was inspired by some of the conversations they had with musicians on the trip. As the great Victor Wooten told them, “The world needs you and your individuality,” which they turned into a mission to get their own creative vision out into the world. Most of the songs on the album have direct ties to these conversations (especially including an interlude composed of audio snippets of the musicians’ words), and the spirit of these sentiments powers the compositions forward. “Drivin’,” inspired by Bobby Watson’s tales of Art Blakey driving the Jazz Messengers cross country, is imbued with the soul and free-wheeling horn play of that group, and guitarist Josh Hill’s pyrotechnics takes the tune over the top. As the tales they heard ran the gamut of emotions, so do the tunes: The subdued “Soggy,” which features White’s reedy baritone sax work, honors the story of a father rescuing a sunken saxophone for his overjoyed son. The tunes also portray the feeling and style of the different cities the band visited. “Airborne,” which is powered by the band’s “7th member,” keyboardist Theron Brown (though Lampley’s tuba is also front and center), is bursting with a New Orleans strut, while “Looking Back” sings with the fiery blues of Chicago, gathering intensity and swagger throughout its seven minute running time. The album closer, “People Power,” is a more somber affair, but is dedicated to the enduring spirit of the generous musicians the band met on tour, and that spirit gives the tune a resonating warmth. Your Song serves as a soulful time capsule of the memories gained on a life-changing trip, but is also an enjoyable, well-crafted album in its own right.
Get ready for Friday’s show with the new video of the album’s title track, recorded live at Fort Hayes: