File this one under "pleasant surprise." Her name is Sonya Jason.

File this one under “pleasant surprise.” Her name is Sonya Jason.

With modern crossover jazz gigs being about as appealing as being stuck in an elevator with a dozen hysterical claustrophobics, and the music itself deliberately toned down so as not to be kicked off “jazz-lite” or “wave” playlists, a rare treat is the performance where a cot or comforter isn’t a necessity. Saxophonist Jason is one of those.

As most of her horn-blowing competition is mostly hot air to begin with (Kenny G, “The Michael Bolton of Reed Instruments”; David “One-Riff” Sanborn), Jason is running in an open field.

Her long spiraling lines and affectation-free technique were a joy, even in the context of her chosen genre.

Aided and abetted by a sympathetic trio of fine, understated players (especially drummer Bill Grayson), Jason played a set consisting exclusively of her own compositions — also a treat given the burden any modern jazz player bears. No standards, hooray!

The 6/8 ballad “Touch and Go” was especially warm and moving, as was the set closer, “Tigress,” a Latin-based number in which the 28-year-old saxist blew out some ferocious licks. (The Discovery artist is promoting her “Tigress” disc.)

Jason is a virtuoso on the soprano sax; she wailed righteously on “Escape to Dreamland,” a three-part composition which was the set’s highlight.

Overly clever but cool all the same was “Cartoon Blues,” an interpretation of the “Simpson’s Theme” and a slew of other TV-cliche lines. Not so cool was “Forbidden Love,” with its “Birdland”-like turnarounds and overused quasi-fusion lines.

No, she won’t make ‘em forget Coltrane, but for 45 minutes she did make some forget the sax hax mentioned above.

It’s a pity Jason and other new players have to tailor their tunes to easy listening, and a pity that she had to try cute banter between the songs.

Sonya Jason

(Lunaria; 100 capacity; $ 8)

Production

Produced by Lunaria. Reviewed May 29, 1993.

Cast

Band: Sonya Jason, Trey Henry, Bill Grayson, Al Daniel.
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