Yotam Silberstein – Standards

I first came across Israeli guitarist Yotam Silberstein on his two albums he did for the now sadly defunct label Jazz Legacy Productions: “Resonance” in 2010 and “Brazil” in 2011. There was something unique in his playing, in both his original compositions and the many Brazilian tunes he recorded for “Brazil” and several more he recorded later on. Vanderlei Pereira and Toninho Horta, among many others, were his guests on “Brazil” where he tackled compositions by Chico Buarque, Carlos Lyra, Jobim, Dori Caymmi, and many more. So it is no surprise that he recorded a Brazilian tune for his most recent album “Standards”, which came out just last Friday on Jojo Records. “Beija Flor”, written by the great composer and singer Nelson Cavaquinho, is part of Yotam’s brilliant 8-song selection and thankfully, what you get is not your typical collection of well-known tunes as the title might suggest. “Beija Flor” simply oozes sensuality and class and vulnerability and a playfulness which is hard to resist.

Yotam Silberstein "Standards"

Ok, there is “If I Loved You”, “Stella By Starlight”, and “Never Let Me Go”. None of those are really worn out with a million interpretations. And it also doesn’t really matter anyway. The way Yotam approaches “If I Loved You”, a song from “Carousel” by Rodgers & Hammerstein (there is a beautiful version by Jo Stafford and the Paul Weston Orchestra from her 1950 LP “Autumn In New York”), is as if he really inhaled the lyrics to the song. Accompanied by bassist John Patitucci and a softened Billy Hart, Yotam plays a steel-string guitar which turns this “standard” into a folk/Americana tune, reminiscent of the Pat Metheny/Charlie Haden masterwork “Beyond The Missouri Sky”. It is stunningly beautiful.

Legendary saxophonist George Coleman, who turns 90 next year, is featured on two tracks. His wailing tones on “Never Let Me Go” give this classic an elegant, but also robust and proficient nuance. After he states the melody, it seems that he starts to sing on his sax in his solo. The other tune on which Mister Coleman is featured is actually one of his compositions called “Lo-Joe” which he recorded for his 1979 LP “Amsterdam After Dark”. It is a heavily swinging bop tune with imaginative soloing by both George and Yotam and a fitting add to this collection since a lot of Coleman’s compositions fit right into a standards set. And on “Stella By Starlight”, there is Yotam’s love for Brazilian music coming to the fore again. He plays spine-tingling notes over a modest bossa beat and thus, brings a new spin to this often-covered classic. Another beauty.

“Serenata”, a song I first heard on the Quincy Jones LP “Big Band Bossa Nova” (even though the much more popular version is by Nat King Cole and George Shearing), comes over with a thrilling, driving pace and excellent drum work by maestro Billy Hart. “Eclypso”, a Tommy Flanagan composition which the pianist recorded in 1957, is another highly infectious upbeat tune where Yotam shows both his blues chops and his forte in Latin-American styles. And we also get a version of the Miles Davis bebop classic “Little Willie Leaps”, first recorded by Miles in 1947. It stays in the bebop tradition here, with an astute bass solo by John Patitucci. So, not your typical standards here thank goodness, but anyhow done with the most ingenious input you can imagine. Vinyl is available too! Check the website of Jojo Records.


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