By Merle Exit
From gigs around the world to the famous New York City jazz club Birdland, trombonist and composer John Yao has been sharing his talents for over a decade.
As a trombonist, he has worked as a sideman for Grammy-award winning ensembles. Yao has now taken up a monthly residency at the Terraza 7 Café where he gave one of his fine performances on Aug. 16.
Here, he will be able to feature a different-sized ensemble and instrumentation every month, with each group performing a wide variety of music from the jazz repertoire in addition to Yao’s original compositions from his three recordings as a leader.
Having first gotten his music degree at Indiana University, his Masters of Jazz Performance/Composition was obtained at Queens College where he is a private instructor.
“As part of my residency at Terraza 7, I get the third Wednesday of each month as an opportunity to showcase my albums, my latest being one entitled ‘Presence’,” Yao said, adding that he doesn’t always play with the same band, and that doing these gigs allows him to play with different musicians.
On this particular evening, his band consisted of Josh Lawrence on trumpet; Mike Eckroth on piano; Edward Perez on bass; and Chris Smith on Drums.
“All of these musicians except Josh Lawrence are based in Queens,” said Yao.
Yao said that his original instrument was the piano, which he played for many years starting in his fifth year of school.
“I wasn’t happy with the instrument and made a deal with my mother to quit and switch to the trombone as she wanted me to concentrate on music,” Yao said. “What drew me to the trombone was that there were no buttons or reed.” Although the knowledge of the piano has helped him with composing, Yao said that the trombone has given him more of an opportunity to play all over the world.
“All of the music that was written for this album, ‘Presence,’ came up using the piano,” said Yao, who can be composing at times for a 17-piece ensemble. “It’s the composer’s tool as you have the orchestra literally at your fingertips.”
As for Terraza 7, Yao considers it a hidden gem of Jackson Heights.
There are two floors to the venue. One is the floor when you enter the café and above it is a loft with stadium seating. You can sit downstairs at the bar and hear it as well.
“Music can be jazz, folk, big band, traditional music from Peru; all the music that you could imagine you would hear in Queens,” Yao said.
Yao’s next performance is on Sept. 20. Expect two sets and a break.