Jade Collective is a New York City-based indie-jazz band that has just released their new five-track EP Cycles. Leaders Jan Esbra (guitars) and Catey Esler (vocals/piano) have drawn on their diverse musical backgrounds “from alternative rock to folk” to create the sound of their band.
Jade Collective started with a crowdfunded Indiegogo album in 2016 called Clarity.They’ve toured with singer/songwriter Becca Stevens and held residencies in Boston and New York clubs, and their original song “Beyond the Last Thought” won a Downbeat Student Music Award for Undergraduate College Outstanding Composition.
Jade Collective relocated to New York City in 2018, which inspired them to write their new EP about the process of change. The principal writers created the “bones” of each song and brought them to the band to add their own contributions. As musical inspiration they cite “…a wide variety of folk, jazz, and alternative bands including Bon Iver, Big Thief, Fleet Foxes, Becca Stevens Band and math-rock group Don Caballero.” Band members also include Artie Sadtler (bass), Thommy Knoles (keys), Jake Hirsch (saxophone) and Aaron Lawson (drums).
In order to achieve a more live and acoustic sound, Jade Collective recorded scratch takes with the full band before overdubbing and layering. The EP was recorded at Ovation Sound in Winston Salem, North Carolina, and mastered by Isaac Wang.
The band describes their sound as featuring “…elements of folk-guitar with modern-jazz harmony, washy electric keyboards alongside acoustic pianos, and syncopated drum and bass rhythms underneath warm vocals and sax melodies.” For me, the keystones of these songs are the lovely vocals of Catey Esler, supported by Jan Ebra’s guitar picking and Thommy Knoles’ keyboards, then taken to another level by the saxophone of Jake Hirsch.
“Light” introduces the slow-build style these songs share, as the instrumentation becomes more lush and expansive as it progresses. Esler states that lyrically, “Light" is about "seeing that we all have the power to accept change if it’s what we desire.” Musically the song has few overt changes of its own, mostly adding and embellishing the main chord sequence bit by bit, especially in the jazzy middle section.
“Cycles” slows things down with a surprisingly complex vocal line against a gently shifting melodic bed. Lyrically this song takes the opposite tack from “Light” and instead reflects a resistance to change due to fear or bad habits. Sax player Jake Hirsch takes center stage in the faster, middle jam section.
“Interlude” is indeed a lovely and wordless interlude of guitar picking and voice backgrounds with guest programming by Isaac Wang. “Don’t” is a beautiful, radio-friendly love song with gorgeous chord changes and multi-tracked sax, this time by Ben Wendel. Some of Esler’s most heartfelt singing builds to an emotional high point: “So even if all that’s left is dreaming / I don’t want to forget.”
“Lilith” is perhaps the most traditionally folky song here, while still retaining the surprising and immersive backgrounds and sweet vocals the band has established. Tasteful drums and percussion are contributed by Aaron Lawson, beautifully recorded.
These five songs made for a short but lovely listening experience, lifting my spirits like a sunny day after the rain.
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