Composer, arranger, producer, musical director and saxophonist Jason Yarde writes music that has been described as powerful, spiritual, evocative, rhapsodic, hair-raising and formidable. He composes across variety of styles (progressive jazz, classical, hip-hop fusion, free improvisation, broken beats, R&B, reggae, soul, song writing) and for a variety of media (orchestras, chamber ensembles, big band, dance, film, electro-acoustic and midi) and his potential and originality is such that he was nominated for the Bird Award at the 2004 North Sea Jazz Festival and for the Jazz on 3 Innovation Award for the 2005 and 2006 BBC Jazz Awards. In 2006 Jason participated in the LSO’s Discovery Panufnik Young Composers Scheme which is designed to facilitate the development of orchestral writing for talented young composers and in 2007 he was an LSO Sound Adventure Artist.
Jason Yarde began playing alto and soprano saxophones with the Jazz Warriors while still a teenager and then went on to MD this landmark orchestra and became one of the principal writers. He has a BA (Hons) in Performance Arts from Middlesex University – a degree that incorporated a year at William Paterson College in New Jersey where he studied orchestration, studio engineering, jazz performance and saxophone under Joe Lovano, Gary Smulyan and Steve Wilson.
As well as composing for his own performance projects – primarily small to medium sized contemporary jazz ensembles – he has written for dance (JazzX-Change Music & Dance Company, Phoenix Dance Company and Jonzi-D Productions), music theatre (Jonzi-D’s Aeroplane Man), opera (he composed The Big But as part of Tete a Tete’s Blind Date season) and TV – highlights include the original music for Rough Crossings) – drama-documentary based on the Simon Schama book of the same name (BBC2), and for director/choreographer Alison Murray’s Pantyhead (Ch4), Horseplay (D4C/BBC2) and Teenage Rampage (Ch4). He is also active in the contemporary UK urban scene and writes music and lyrics for artists such as Julie Dexter and the Mercury Music Prize nominees, Terri Walker and the rapper Ty.
Recent compositions include: Where will it take you? – an ensemble piece with solo voice for SoundJunction – an internet and CD-ROM based resource for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music; Blown from the Black Flag – a Jerwood Wapping Commission; Random Wishes & Abstract Dreams – the Jerwood Rising Star commission for Cheltenham Jazz Festival; All Sea All Earth – Who Knows Man’s Worth? with didgeridoo virtuoso Mark Atkins for Echoes of Freedom, a festival celebrating 150 years of democracy in Australia; Breaking Out: Music at the Tower – a workshop, performance and installation project with David Okumu at the Tower of London; I Choose to Sing – a choral work commissioned by Solid Harmony Youth Choir; Who Knows The Beauty? – a commission from Britten Sinfonia for alto saxophone, piano and string quintet; IVAN – a new dance work for Jonzi-D and Jane Sekonya; Soliloquies of Solice for solo cello and tape commissioned by Oxford Contemporary Music; A Midnight Dream of Summer for recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey; Some time after – a work inspired by Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight for Kronos Quartet; Rude Awakening and All Souls Seek Joy for the London Symphony Orchestra and he made his composing debut at the 2008 BBC Proms with Rhythm & Other Fascinations for the BBC Concert Orchestra featuring Gwilym Simcock’s trio which won the first ever BASCA award for ‘Contemporary Jazz Composition’ the following year.
Jason Yarde is a brilliant musical director and his highly distinctive arranging style reflects the numerous artists and ensembles that have shaped his wide musical outlook. He has arranged for Keziah Jones, Bembe Segue, Return To Roots Orchestra (South Africa), Two Banks of Four, 4-Hero, Gregory Isaacs, Alton Ellis, Dennis Brown, King Sounds, Super Blue, Shadow, Kronos Quartet, Plan B, Guy Barker, Manu Dibango and Hugh Masekela in collaboration with both Jazz Jamaica All Stars and with the London Symphony Orchestra. Other work in this area includes the critically acclaimed Future Sounds of Jazz project which featured many of the leading lights of the British jazz scene including Soweto Kinch, David Okumu and Matthew Bourne and his collaboration with Grime producer DaVinChe on the arrangements for the ground-breaking Urban Classic – a project which featured some of the UK’s most exciting Grime artists and the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Charles Hazlewood.
In addition to composing, arranging and performing, Jason Yarde has enjoyed much success as a record producer. In 2009 he completed UK group, Empirical’s second album ‘Out’n’In’ (Naim) and in 2007 he produced the debut CD by UK pianist Gwilym Simcock (Basho Records) and he has enjoyed the role of foremost producer at UK independent jazz label Dune Records where he has been responsible for Tomorrow’s Warriors presents… J-Life, Jazz Jamaica All Stars’s Massive, Robert Mitchell’s Voyager, Juliet Roberts’ Beneath The Surface, Denys Baptiste’s Let Freedom Ring!, Soweto Kinch’s Conversations With The Unseen (which was nominated for a Mercury Music Award, 2003) and Jazz Warrior, the debut recording by trumpeter Abram Wilson.
As a player he shared the front line with Byron Wallen in Andrew Hill’s last touring band and continues to do so in a number of projects lead by Jack DeJohnette. His own projects range from a solo; ‘BlueBox’ with saxes and fx through to ACOUTASTiC BOMBASTiC; a 10 piece of multi-instrumentalists featuring many of the UK’s top players including Julian Siegel, Orphy Robinson and Seb Rochford.
His is currently touring with his regular trio with Larry Bartley on Bass and Mike Pickering on Drums and the new MY Duo project with pianist Andrew McCormack.