Downbeat magazine review of Presence in August 2017 issue


“His writing is creative and full of surprises. . . John Yao is on his way. He’s definitely on his way.  And I’m definitely ready to hear more.”  Jim McNeely, Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

“. . .we may be living through a golden age for trombone players in the world of jazz.  Add another name to their ranks – John Yao.”  Jeffery Siegel, Straight No Chaser – A Jazz Podcast

“Yao’s [big band] compositions are wildly complex and his arrangements are imbued with the freedom of a smaller ensemble, verging on the avant-garde.”  Ron Netsky, Rochester City Newspaper

 “Yao isn't exactly a new man, but he's most certainly an evolving artist who continues to grow at a rapid pace.”  Dan Bilawsky, All About Jazz      

“Yao is as smooth as silk on “Presence” and the gently bopping “Nightfall.”  George Harris, Jazz Weekly

“John Yao makes it clear he’s not content to stand still. “  Jeff Potter, Downbeat

“Boldly diverse, Yao's compositions cut across the swath of contemporary jazz's field, utilizing the big-band format to amalgamate a surprising range of styles and periods—sometimes within a single composition.”  Franz Matzner, All About Jazz

“. . . a rising star, John Yao is a name to remember.”  Brent Black, Critical Jazz

“Yao’s blend of the inside and the outside ultimately yields considerable rewards.”  Alex Henderson, Jazz Inside NY Magazine

“Yao’s trombone is nice and warm but it can also be cutting, as on the contemplative “Reflection”, morphing into slightly off-kilter decisiveness.” Elliot Simon, New York City Jazz Record


“. . . the title track is a model vehicle for Yao’s lyrical soloing and expressive round tone.  Yao’s most searching release to date, the album is marked by greater openness and ensemble elasticity.” Jeff Potter, Downbeat

 “Yao, a clear rising star with a lot to say, never says the same thing twice on Presence.”  Dan Bilawsky, All About Jazz

“Progressive stuff for progressive ears, Yao is on a collision course to meet tomorrow head on . . .”  Chris Spector, Midwest Record

“Adventurous, searching and yet accessible.”  George Harris, Jazz Weekly

“The actual ode to his friend, “M Howard,” is eight minutes of complicated sadness that Yao imparts like a champ.”   Eric Saeger, Hippo Press

“. . . a tight, swinging straight-ahead effort. . .”  Phil Freeman, Stereogum

“Such good music, such strong compositions, such a good ensemble, Presence has all the ingredients to please and challenge an active listener. . . it gives one hope in the face of tragedy, inspiring us to continue to move forward.”  Richard Kamins, Step Tempest

Presence, is aptly titled, as he makes his presence felt right from the get-go . . .”  Jeffery Siegel, Straight No Chaser Podcast

“. . . contemporary jazz in an imaginative and meaningful way with each musician displaying the subtlety and chops this music demands. Recommended.”  John Neudorf, Sea of Tranquility


Best Jazz Albums of 2015 Patriot Ledger

“It’s always cool to find a big band that really kicks and Yao’s 10 original tunes here are endlessly surprising, his arrangements always riveting.”  Jay Miller, Patriot Ledger

“[Flip-Flop] showcased Yao’s unpredictable compositions and inventive arrangements, which spring from tradition while pointing towards future portals.”  Jeff Potter, Downbeat

“Hold on tight for one of the wildest rides ever to shake up the big band genre.”  Ron Netsky, Rochester City Newspaper

“Flip-Flop...not your grandfather’s big band. “ Elliot Simon, New York City Jazz Record

“At times angular and broken, other times linear and swinging, he offers a broad view of the possibilities of jazz composition.”  Jim McNeely, Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

“Boldly diverse, Yao's compositions cut across the swath of contemporary jazz's field, utilizing the big-band format to amalgamate a surprising range of styles and periods—sometimes within a single composition . . .perhaps most appealingly of all, it's anyone's guess where he will take us next.”  Franz Matzner, All About Jazz

“John Yao is one of New York’s elite trombonists, and . . .  is also a first-class, ambitious and witty composer and leader of his own all-star large ensemble, John Yao’s 17-Piece Instrument.”  Alan Young, Lucid Culture

“A must set for big band fans that want to hear something that takes the form in to the future, this blows the ears open in a mighty way.”  Chris Spector, Midwest Record

“At times burnished and melodious, at others loose and strident, it forms a colorful tapestry that is never less than alluring.”  Jack Bowers, All About Jazz

". . .  quality straight-ahead jazz featuring exemplary writing and soloists. Yao's angular melodies build forcefully throughout his 10 original compositions." James Rozzi, Jazziz Magazine

“Yao not only puts a fresh coat of paint to big band sounds, but redoes the foundation and expands a few rooms. Exciting through and through.”  George Harris, Jazz Weekly

“[Yao’s] intention is making music that involves the musicians, giving them a variety of avenues to display their talents. . .” Richard Kamins, Step Tempest

“John Yao is one of New York’s elite trombonists and is also a first-class, ambitious, and witty composer and leader . . . the album is big, bright, brassy extravaganza. But it’s also full of unexpected dynamics, dips and rises, imaginative voicings and occasional sardonic humor.”  Alan Young, Lucid Culture

“Yao allows himself plenty of up front time and it's well worth hearing what a world-class trombonist can do on that very difficult but extraordinarily rich instrument."  Karl Ackerman, All About Jazz

“While Yao’s style is not retro, he knows where the music has been and has a developing vision of where he wants to take it.”  Barry Bassis, Epoch Times

“His “17-piece instrument” is what trombonist-composer John Yao calls the big band that plays his bold, adventurous, imaginative pieces.”  Bob Bernatos, Just Jazz

“Yao's compositions are wildly complex, and his arrangements are imbued with the freedom of a far smaller ensemble, verging on the avant-garde. “  Ron Netskey, Rochester City News paper

“It’s as interesting and unique as it sounds.”  Carl Weinschenk, Daily Music Break

“Flip-Flop...not your grandfather’s big band. “ Elliot Simon, New York City Jazz Record


“[A] resourceful young trombonist whose recent debut, In the Now (Innova) shows him to be a smart- composer bandleader besides.”  Nate Chinen, New York Times

“Spirited and well-executed, In the Now bristles with energy.”  Franz Matzner, All About Jazz

“. . . incorporate(s) an insistently swinging Jazz Messengers vibe while also stepping into the free-rider zone at times.”

- Bill Milkowski, Jazz Times

“Wow. Trombonist John Yao’s debut album, and it is damn strong.  An album for old and new school jazz fans alike, and a terribly promising sign that this is Yao’s debut album.  I’m already looking forward to what comes next.”  David Sumner, Bird is the Worm

“Trombonist John Yao's new quintet album, In the Now blends vivid tunefulness, clever composition and inspired teamwork. It’s accessible, but it’s also cerebral, and there’s also considerable wit here.”  Alan Young, Lucid Culture

“For the more courageous swinger.”  George Harris, Jazz Weekly


Straight, No Chaser- A Jazz Podcast

Listen to Jeffery Siegel's conversation with John Yao about the rise of the modern Trombone player and his latest release Presence.