Following in the wake of the renewed interest in the funky sounds of the Hammond B-3 which was largely initiated by youngster Joey DeFransesco, there have been more and more organists willing to throw their hats in the ring. Arguably, the finest two recently have proven to be Larry Goldings and Sam Yahel. And while DeFransesco has never made it a secret that his main influence has always been Jimmy Smith (check out his new disc, The Champ, which is an outright tribute to the master), Goldings and Yahel specialize more in the harmonically-advanced and cooler approach preferred by such '60s kingpins as Larry Young and "Big" John Patton.
As an apropos addition to Criss Cross Jazz's fine collection of organ dates led by luminary Melvin Rhyne and a few Peter Bernstein sets with Larry Goldings, The Sam Yahel Trio bears the signs of the several years that the orgainst led sessions with guitarist Bernstein at Smalls in New York's Greenwich Village. Then the trio did a Criss Cross side with trumpeter Ryan Kisor (Battle Cry) and it must have been evident to producer Gerry Teekens that the organist was ready for his own maiden voyage.
The trio heard here is one well-oiled machine that benefits greatly from Bernstein's Grant Green-inspired single note runs and Brian Blade's earthy drumming. In fact, those only familiar with the drummer's past work with Josh Redman and recent stint with Joni Mitchell will be surprised by his chameleon- like take on the standard organ trio format. Bernstein's own "Blues for Bulgaria" opens up the proceedings with a laid back feel that sets the tenor for the entire date. In other words, you won't find chunky, funky displays of chops nor will you hear the blues played ad nauseam or hear the customary "ice rink" vibrato set loose on a string of ballads. This music is about group interplay and contemporary structures and harmonies. The instrumentation hasn't dictated the material or approach, instead Yahel and company use their chosen format to explore a rich tapestry of modern sounds. In the end, it all adds up to a highly- appealing mix that never fails to please.
Blues for Bulgaria, Never Will I Marry, The Gambit, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, Isn't This My Music Around Me?, Gravy Waltz, Short Return, And Then Some (55:15)
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