Sam Yahel

In the Blink of an Eye

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For his third CD, organist Yahel brings back guitarist Peter Bernstein, drummer Brian Blade (see Trio on Criss Cross) and percussionist Kahlil Kwame Bell, who plays percussion on two tracks. There's much more going on under the surface than initially meets the ear, and that's the beauty of Yahel's concept. He's stealth and lurking in underground caves, searching for light and finding mine shafts of pure gold, with the always capable and melodic Bernstein a veritable beacon of energy and soul. Yahel wrote two of these eight selections. The title track is based on a Chopin etude, a darker waltz that quickens in the middle, and there's also "So Long," with Bell starting off on a tango rhythm and going to sultry samba a la Ivan Lins' "The Island." Yahel selects such oft-neglected standards as the changed-up swinger "I Believe In You" and the much more familiar "Spring Is Here," with Blade's jungle toms and Yahel's swelling organ informing Bernstein's patient guitar on this classic balladic melody. "Like Someone in Love" sports a swirling, circular motion before going into the melody in 5/4 time, with 5/8 inserts. The astute listener will clearly hear how clever this is. More modern standards are the Freddie Hubbard evergreen "Little Sunflower," a very laid-back, tight bossa with Bell's prismatic colorations freshening this steamy take, while McCoy Tyner's "Inception" is light, bright and quick, with Bernstein's kinetic line, Yahel's expansive chords, and both on fire for their solos. Bernstein contributed his spontaneous piece "Just a Thought," a midtempo swinger replete with traces of "We'll Be Together Again." If there is a latter-day organist upholding the spirit of Larry Young in terms of stretching the groove as well as orchestral and harmonic possibilities, it's Yahel. He's only scratching the surface as a composer, but as a performer he's right there. Recommended.

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