Yotam Silberstein: Next Page (2009)
Simplicity is what this date is all about, as Silberstein's unadorned hollow-body guitar work freely invites comparisons to releases from the heyday of Blue Note Records. In that light, when Silberstein adds Cheek's multi-faceted tenor to the mix, one specific Blue Note release springs to mind: Grant Green's Grantstand (Blue Note, 1961), where Green and then-employer "Brother" Jack McDuff teamed with tenor man Yusef Lateef and drummer Al Harewood to create that contradiction in terms, an underrated classic.
Like fellow countryman Roni Ben-Hur, Silberstein eschews any effects not available before 1965, which makes his waltzing opener "Borsht" an easy doppelganger for a lost track from Green's prime. Silberstein's licks have the same elegant, enticing quality that stood Green in good stead until his death in 1978. Willie Jones III keeps the drums minimal, giving his leader plenty of room to move; Yahel is right with Jones in the "Man Who Wasn't There" contest, fading in just long enough to make a point before retreating into the background. Yahel's attack isn't as rich as McDuff's, but the modern textures Yahel gives "Borsht" (and the entire date) is one factor that makes Next a 21st-century heavyweight, and not a wannabe dreaming of a long-gone 52nd Street.
Another 21st-century factor is Cheek, one of this generation's more interesting reed players. On the Silberstein original "Jalastra," Cheek displays the spare, site-specific sound he's best known for. Between his work and Yahel's own bubbling contributions, "Jalastra" is the most contemporary track on the date. Cheek's initial appearance on Peter Tinturin's "Foolin' Myself" has an exaggerated quality that could be seen as parody; in actuality, it's really just a latter-day approach to the piece that lets Silberstein launch a tantalizing counter before the tune's first solo spot even arrives.
That's not to say Cheek doesn't get with the Old School program: With a little more fuzz, his solo on the lush ballad "Canção" could have sprouted from the bell of another Blue Note legend, Dexter Gordon. Yahel's got a right to play the blues because he does it so darned well, as he demonstrates on the next great action-movie theme song, "Blues for 007," and he puts a little extra swirl into "Ani Eshtagea," a song from Silberstein's childhood in Israel. While Jones seems to relish his support role on Next, he steps out in fine bombastic style on the out section of a sizzling "If Ever I Would Leave You."
Despite all the Grant Green parallels, Yotam Silberstein isn't piggy-backing on memories. He's forging his own path with skill and style, and Next Page could lead to one long, good book.
Track Listing: Borsht; Foolin
Personnel: Yotam Silberstein: guitar; Sam Yahel: organ; Willie Jones III: drums; Chris Cheek: tenor sax.
Record Label: Posi-Tone Records