Joey deFrancesco. Tony Monaco. Larry Goldings. Barbara Dennerlein. All at the forefront of the current generation of jazz organists and heirs to the mantle of Jimmy Smith, Charles Earland, and Jack McDuff.
Oh yeah, there’s one more notable: Sam Yahel. But with the release this week of his fourth effort Truth And Beauty, Yahel is making the case that there is still room for another distinctive voice in the well-established world of the Hammond B-3.
Like both Smith and his more cerebral counterpoint Larry Young, Yahel’s B-3 sound displays a lot of gospel influence, but like Young alone, Yahel isn’t seeking to wow his listener with greasy vamps; it’s the subtleties that will grab you.
The first few times I listened to Truth And Beauty, Young's epic Unity came to mind. Not because any particular track on Yahel’s release is a dead ringer for any of Young’s, because there aren't any; rather, it's because Yahel similarly combines swinging and testifying with elements unconventional to jazz, creating a sort new kind of jazz as a result. He also gets his band members very much involved, because he picked a couple of side-men — saxophonist Joshua Redman and drummer Brian Blade — who buy into his vision wholeheartedly.
The Sam Yahel Trio is in reality the third name for the same New York City-based combo previously known of YaYa3 and the Joshua Redman Elastic Band. While YaYa was more bop-ish and the Elastic Band thrived on the groove, the Yahel Trio seeks to go beyond the natural constraints of either. Instead, the Yahel Trio is more apt to explore other avenues like samba, folk and even some avant garde that doesn't replace, but rather, enhances the jazz underpinnings.
Redman, the biggest name of the three, has got to be one of the most adaptable tenormen on the scene today. His ability to effortlessly tailor his style to any setting, while maintaining his own identity is unsurpassed among current players. Yahel would have been wise to make Joshua his reed player for this session even if he hadn’t had such an extended history with him.
Blade, too, seems a logical choice; his technique is top-notch but it’s his shadings that set him apart and provide the kind of distinction that Yahel was undoubtedly looking for out of his drummer. He knew he would get that from Blade.