Jason Yates has released his sophomore solo album on Vapor Records. The self-titled set, recorded at Manny Nieto's Estudio in East L.A., was produced by Yates along with Nieto and Shane Smith.
If the name Jason Yates isn't instantly recognizable, the sound of his Hammond B3 is surely familiar: Jason has played in touring bands for Macy Gray and Natalie Merchant. His keys have graced sessions with a diverse collection of artists - from Taj Mahal to Mazzy Star, G. Love, Michael Franti, and Toots & the Maytals, to name but a few. For the past five years, Jason was a member of Ben Harper's band the Innocent Criminals, a stint that included a Grammy-winning collaboration with the Blind Boys of Alabama on the 2004 disc There Will Be A Light.
This far-flung, genre-defying path informs not only the nine tracks on Jason Yates, but also the array of guests who joined Jason for the recording. (It might also explain the 7-year gap between this and Jason's solo debut, Angeleno. Hardly a slacker's pace, as it turns out.)
Heading that bill is longtime Black Crowes guitarist Marc Ford (who also played on There Will Be A Light), here contributing lead guitar on "Paper Tents." Jason's Innocent Criminals bandmate, drummer Oliver Charles, plays on much of the album. Bassist David Wilder played extensively with Macy Gray, guest vocalist C.C. White crossed paths with Jason on Taj Mahal's Maestro, and guitarist Mark Lightcap returns from Angeleno (Jason, for his part, has also sat in with Lightcap's former band Acetone). Drummer Gary Mallaber, meanwhile, has a 40-year resume that could awe even as accomplished a sideman as Jason - having played with Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt, the Steve Miller Band, and countless others.
If sharing a name with his album makes Jason Yates a definition of the man, Jason himself is less interested in the minutiae of such a definition than in its underlying essence.
"There was always a certain way I wanted to play, no matter what band I was in," Jason explains. "It had to be natural, and have a strong groove to it. When I was writing the songs on the new album, that idea was at the front of my mind the whole time."
That groove traverses blues and rock, gospel and soul; it flirts with jazz and country. There's a sense of space here, whether that space resonates with impressionistic guitar licks and Jason's B3 on songs like "Nobody So Far" and "Paper Tents," or it's filled only with the melancholy of the bare and beautiful closing track "Sing For You."
Simply put, "I spent a long time thinking about this and trying to find a way to do what I wanted," says Jason. "And I finally did."