Sam_yahel-trio_span3
January/February 2000

Sam Yahel
Trio
Criss Cross Jazz

Since the death of Larry Young in 1978, there have been few organists willing or inclined to investigate the Hammond B-3's capacity for understatment and subtlety rather than to exploit the outer limits of its volume and power. Sam Yahel seems positioned to follow Young, Don Patterson and (on his best days) Larry Goldings in exploiting the B-3's pianistic heritage. To do that requires willingness to put harmonic and melodic values ahead of, or at least on an equal footing with, stimulation of the viscera. Yahel's understated, musicianly style was impressive on Ryan Kisor's Battle Cry (Criss Cross 1145). Two months after that session, he went into the studio with his Battle Cry rhythm mates, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Brian Blade, for this debut as a leader.

The three are attuned in their commitment to swing while practicing restraint. Even on the funky "And Then Some," inspired by former Yahel employer Maceo Parker, the order of the day is clarity, succinctness and development of musical lines. Though several pieces exceed seven minutes, Yahel and Bernstein never run off at the keyboard or the fingerboard. This is a well-balanced program of standards and originals. Yahel's happy excursion on "Never Will I Marry" is a highlight, his revival of Ray Brown's "Gravy Waltz" another. Three Yahel compositions include the attractive waltz "The Gambit," which is unrelated to Charlie Mariano's composition of the same name. Criss Cross, a Dutch company, continues to seek out some of the most interesting young players on the New York scene.

Originally published in January/February 2000
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