COLLECTIVE VIBE 2023
Born and raised in Minnesota, Steve Yeager remembers, “I started playing drums in the sixth grade school band, learning snare drum rudiments ”. Allen C. Benson, a great musician, artist and percussionist came to town in 1976; he was a really big influence on me. Percussionist Marv Dahlgren from the Minnesota Orchestra was my next connection. He was a fine Jazz Vibes player that did club dates in the late 70’s, and I hooked up with him for lessons before heading off to college. Growing up, my parents took me to see Lionel Hampton, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and the George Shearing groups. A small club in Minneapolis called the Rainbow Gallery - which was a tea room - was a hangout in late high school. Saw Philly Joe Jones, George Coleman et al, with locals Bobby and Billy Peterson as constants.” Graduating from St. John’s University with degrees in Psychology and Music, he later attended the Berklee College Of Music in Boston - where through a tape audition he was one of the the recipients of a Berklee Professional Music Scholarship and a Gary Burton Jazz Masters Incentive Award. Studies included lessons with Ed Saindon and regular ensembles and masterclasses. Since that time he has returned to Minnesota and has had several overlapping careers. As an educator, Yeager taught Vibes and improvisation at the University of Minnesota for ten years as an adjunct faculty member, taught music production as a LOGIC certified trainer at the Minneapolis Media Institute, and 6 years in the Anoka Hennepin School district teaching Music Production. As a producer and an arranger-composer, he has produced a countless amount of music for other artists along with sync licensing for movies and television. He is also an engineer who is expert at mixing and mastering (except for his own music album releases - for those, he always hands the faders to someone else). And, most importantly, as a vibraphonist he has developed his own original sound and led four albums: April Sessions (1998), Suite MJQ (2000), New Groove Blues (with organist Tony Monaco in 2003), and Vibraharp (2020). “The songs in this collection are pieces that I’m proud of but were not publicized much in the past. I took most of the selections from older records and edited them, sometimes remixed them, and cut their length down to get to their essence.” The music is drawn from April Sessions (“Say It Over and Over Again,” “Moments,” “Days,” and “I Fall In Love”), Suite MJQ (“Ballad For Milt” and “Fugette”), and Vibraharp (“The Promise”) with “Deep Blue” and “Dizzy Who?” being taken from sessions that Yeager had recorded in St. Paul during 2014-16. In addition, “Say I Do” was previously unreleased. The diverse yet unified program begins with the catchy “Dizzy Who?” A joyfully funky number, it has an assertive theme, riffing horns, disco strings, and a strong contribution from organist Kevin Gastonguay in addition to the leader’s vibes. “Say It Over And Over Again” is primarily a long and beautiful melody statement by Yeager. He displays his individuality, often allowing a single note to ring over several bars - rather than filling in the space with double-time runs. He lets the melody and the bar vibrato speak for itself. The original version of this song on his 1998 April Sessions CD features a beautiful Piano solo by the late great Bobby Peterson - and is worth seeking out. “Fugette” is taken from a tribute to Milt Jackson and the Modern Jazz Quartet that was recorded soon after Jackson’s passing in 1999. The straight ahead jam teams Yeager again with pianist Bobby Peterson, bassist Gordon Johnson, and drummer Phil Hey. It features some Bach-inspired counterpoint that pianist John Lewis loved to play. The most extensive editing and remixing took place on three of the selections from April Sessions. “On ‘I Fall In Love,’ ‘Moments,’ and ‘Days, I used an MPC sampler and the Pro Tools audio stems to cut up the tracks and form a new arrangement. I sent those to Kevin Gastonguay who added keys and B-3 organ , Andrew Foreman electric bass and Redi Kennedy conjured a drum part (there are no drums on April Session) and completely reinvented the songs.” Since the melodies are now absent (other than a brief hint of ‘When I Fall in Love’ on ‘I Fall In Love’), no one could tell from listening to these what the original songs were.” “Deep Blue” features Yeager in a slightly funky setting with keyboardist Kevin Gastonguay and the backing of three horns. “Ballad For Milt” from the MJQ project is an excellent ballad feature for Yeager and finds him repaying his debt to Milt Jackson, the most influential of all jazz vibraphonists. “Days” a Remix - quickly changes the mood. It is a catchy and danceable number set up by drummer Reid Kennedy, that in this version, is a very well-disguised piece based on “The Days Of Wine And Roses.” The organ and tenor add to the soul jazz groove. The previously unreleased “Say I Do” is a change of pace for, while Steve Yeager produced this selection, he does not play on it. Instead it has tenor-saxophonist Brian Snowman Powers in the lead during an easy-listening r&b ish groove. “Moments” is a disguised “Stolen Moments” that gives no hint of its source. No matter, the new piece stands out on its own with tenor-saxophonist Irv Williams and Yeager as the most prominent voices. The intriguing and consistently enjoyable program concludes with “The Promise.” Originally called “Promise Of Love” and released on his album Vibraharp that included a beautiful vocal by Lucia Newell based on a poem by Sara Teasdale - it now puts the focus on its haunting theme with Adam Rossmiller on flugelhorn stating the classical-inspired melody. Throughout his career, Steve Yeager has contributed to the legacy of the vibraphone, making significant contributions as a soloist, producer, composer, in his published works, and as an educator. Collective Vibe puts a new spin on some of his earlier recordings, utilizing parts of his past to create new and fun music. Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian April 2023
Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian
Steve Yeager has had successful overlapping careers as a performer, composer, producer and educator. In fact, his work in several fields has kept him so busy that it is sometimes overlooked how talented a jazz vibraphonist he has always been. Vibraharp, his fourth album as a leader, finally puts him back in the spotlight.
"This album is both a primer into the poetry of the brilliant American lyric poet Sara Teasdale, and a soundscape. Vernon's delivery of the sultry and poignant lines is the perfect vibe for Yeager's sonic vision."
Kevin O'Connor, KBEM music director:
Mpls StarTribune January 29, 2021
NEW GROOVE BLUES / 2003
John Stevenson e-jazz news.com
Anyone accompanying a jazz organist deserves recognition. With its pedals and multiple decks of keys, the organ is a monster that can sonically devour the rest of the ensemble.
Vibist Steve Yeager appears to have gotten the balance just right on his most recent offering with B-3 exponent Tony Monaco, guitarist Clay Moore and drummer Phil Hey.
Gifted with a sure-footed sense of melody and a dynamic approach, Yeager handles the material (among the tunes the beautiful original "Lisa") magisterially.
JAZZ IMPROV MAGAZINE
Reviewed by Vince Giantomasi
Vibraphonist Steve Yeager has put together a unique ensemble for his third release, New Groove Blues on the Collective Vibes Records label. Joining Steve on the album is B-3 Hammond organist, Tony Monaco, guitarist, Clay Moore and drummer Phil Hey. This blend of instruments is intended to “provide a texture that is unique and instantly appealing,” as Yeager points out in his bio.
The CD includes seven tunes by such composers as Harburg & Lane, Count Basie, Burt Bacharach & Hal David, Kenny Dorham, John Lewis, George Wallington, “Baby Face” Willette and two originals by Yeager.
RADIO DIRECT X
Reviewed by Max Babi
Yeager is a self-confessed devotee of the legendary giant of jazz vibes, Milt Jackson, and its shows in his style of presentation. At the same time he's not blind copy cat either, having developed his own brand of improvisation. In some numbers one hears the shades of Cal Tjader, and Victor Feldman too. On the whole the quartet plays quite crisp and fresh-sounding bluesy jazz that never slackens the pace at all.
THE MUSICIAN'S OMBUDSMAN
George W. Carroll
In the solid tradition of some ''tote that barge'' swing, and hard driving bebop, vibraphone player Steve Yeager has garnered a winner with his new disc. I must pay kudos to the musical symbiosis between Tony Monaco's burnin' Hammond B-3 horn lines, & the strong yet florid playing style of Yeager on vibes.
With some added help from their sidemen, Clay Moore-guitar, and Phil Hey-drums, the group celebrates jazz in the vernacular of the 'MJQ,,' 'Joey 'D,' 'Jimmy Smith,' et al. The group's musical formalization is strong as they express their musical ideas, melodies, harmonies, & rhythms positively. It's all here: Intonation, speed, intensity.......pitch, tempo, dynamics. A group like this is indispensable, with their propensity to exploit for us the listener, their take on creative expression of raw musical emotion.....
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Reviewed by C. Michael Bailey
Yeager, and by proxy, Tony Monaco, are the keepers of the flame. They provide a very traditional look at the blues and ballads a la Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff. The combination of vibraphone (Yeager's instrument) and organ is a provocative one and the treatments are tasty. The songs come from all over the map- a Jimmy Smith "Old Devil Moon," a chicken shack look at "Godchild" and "Blue Bossa" all rounded up under the tent of the original "New Groove Blues. Yeager is more Milt Jackson than Stefon Harris and Monaco is more Jimmy McGriff than Groove Holmes. All of this distills into a pure spirit of soul jazz well played.
Reviewed by: John Doll
"New Groove Blues" could easily have been titled 'Blue Coastal Breezes.' The melodies caressed by the quartet made up of Steve Yeager on vibes, Tony Monaco on organ, Clay Moore on guitar, and Phil Hey on drums are brisk, sunny bright with an undercurrent of the blues. The pieces are mostly playful and light. The package feels like a windy amble down a sun-bleached boardwalk with the sounds and sights of a fading summer's light.
APRIL SESSIONS / 1998
Tom Surowicz, Minneapolis Star Tribune August 1998
Yeager's work favorably recalls some of the top vibes players in Jazz:
Bobby Hutcherson's warmth, Milt Jackson's bluesy, groovy finesse; Gary Burton's modern conception.