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Sam Yahel's Hammond B3 organ has been paired with stars like Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux, Maceo Parker and Bill Frisell, but with his fourth album as a leader, the organist reveals his own voice. It's confident, clever and gleefully vibrant. With saxophonist Joshua Redman and drummer Brian Blade, two stars in their own right, Yahel has formed an album that hovers in the most supple, downy realm of jazz.
The trio embarked on a musical expedition together several years ago with their collaborative group Yaya3 and Joshua Redman's Elastic Band, so they've already proven that they play well together. But the way the group forms an atmosphere of vibrating notes that bounce off each other, buoying the tone, is remarkable. Yahel's own compositionssix of which appear on the albumhave a smart way of maintaining a focus in an otherwise fluid environment, by perpetually harking back to a theme, as if he's lining up an exuberant troupe for rollcall before the free space gets too big.
"Saba" opens with an allotted space for each individual, sounding like a metaphor for a world of perfect cooperation as Yahel begins the tune with a rapid-fire rhythm, followed by Blade's sharp response and Redman's replication of the line. Before the tune gets stuck in an overly contrapuntal back and forth, Blade acts as a fierce catalyst, propelling his mates into their own spheres, before they quickly pull back into the original theme. Even as each player takes a turn at a lead, the others continue their excited romp, creating a supportive impetus for the soloist.
But while Yahel often brings the sound back to a listener's region of comfort, he also surprises constantly throughout the album. "Child Watching" starts with an extraordinary sequence that combines hollow percussive rhythms with rapid blinks of electronic sounds; during "Festinhas," thick, modulating organ tones contrast with the metallic beat of the ride cymbal, creating a mesmerizing flow, and the title track's flurried opening sets an excited mood that makes you want to do the shuffle. The trio takes on a few covers as well, including Ornette Coleman's "Check Up," a carefully executed piece, carried off with an almost nostalgic reverence. But "Truth and Beauty" hits its most stunning moment when it reaches track six, Paul Simon's "Night Game"; Redman gives the sultry melody a strong but breathy dress, luring the organ into a complex narrative full of truth and beauty and quivering with grace.
Track Listing: Truth and Beauty; Man O' War; Check Up; Bend the Leaves; Saba; Night Game; Child Watching; A Paz; Festinhas.
Personnel: Sam Yahel: organ; Joshua Redman: tenor saxophone; Brian Blade: drums.