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.