John Yao is a Conn-Selmer Artist and plays King trombones and Greg Black mouthpieces.



For over a decade, John Yao has been honing his talents as a trombonist, composer and arranger, and cementing his place on the New York City jazz scene. Yao’s lyrical soloing and expressive, round tone, combined with his relentless drive to push the boundaries of harmony and rhythm, have established him as a unique and forward-thinking jazz talent.  All About Jazz says Yao is “an evolving artist who continues to grow at a rapid pace.”

As a trombonist, Yao has worked extensively as a sideman for Grammy-award winning New York City ensembles, such as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra.  Yao has also performed with such esteemed and acclaimed musician as Paquito D’Rivera, Eddie Palmieri, Danilo Perez, Chris Potter and Kurt Elling, among many others.  

Yao is also the leader of his own working bands: John Yao Quintet (JYQ) and John Yao & His 17-piece Instrument (JY17).  His bands and the undeniably talented musicians that comprise them, are the mouth piece his adventurous compositions.  Downbeat called his most recent Quintet release Presence (See Tao Recordings) “Yao’s most searching release to date, the album is marked by greater openness and ensemble elasticity.” Midwest Record says the John Yao & His 17-piece Instrument 2015 release Flip-Flop (See Tao Recordings) is “a must set for big band fans that want to hear something that takes the form into the future, this blows the ears open in a mighty way.”

As a composer, Yao has been commissioned to write works for professional ensembles such as the Grammy Award winning Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, Band of Bones, Luis Bonilla’s I Talking too Big Band, HGM Big Band as well as writing for his big band, John Yao & His 17-piece Instrument.  His works have been performed by college and high school ensembles including Temple University, Indiana University, Iowa University, University of North Carolina, New Jersey City University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Binghamton University, HGM Orkestar in Zagreb, Croatia, New Trier High School and Townsend Harris High School. He was a member of the BMI Jazz Composers workshop in 2012-14 under the guidance of Jim McNeely and Mike Holober. 

Both of Yao’s bands have held residencies at popular New York City venues such as the ShapeShifter Lab and Terraza 7 café.  He also founded the Big Band & Beyond Concert Series featuring the JY-17 premiering new for big band at each concert.  The series goal is to further new works in the genre and to offer a broad view of the possibilities of jazz composition.  

John has also established him as an in demand educator in New York and beyond. Presently he serves as an adjunct faculty member at Molloy College, Queens College and is an active guest artist and soloist at colleges and universities around the United States and abroad.