Saxophonist Joshua Redman, keyboardist Sam Yahel, and drummer Brian Blade got together accidentally when Redman substituted for an absent player at a Yahel gig at Small's in New York one night, though they had played, and even recorded, together in different combinations before. They retain the wonder of discovery they must have felt that night on their self-titled debut album, Yaya3. A good part of the magic is the unusual combination of instruments, as well as the unusual way at least two of them are played. Yahel avoids much of the typical heaviness of Hammond organ work, even though his pedal playing easily makes up for the lack of a bass player, and Blade is an endlessly surprising jazz drummer in the style of Philly Joe Jones; you never know what he's going to hit next. That leaves Redman as the straight man, and though he's the biggest name and has the most playing time, he suffers for it. There's nothing wrong, for example, with his playing on his own composition, "Switchblade," except that he seems to be going through fairly typical quick-tempo bop changes, an approach that comes off as earthbound in this company. And on the Latin-tinged "Two Remember, One Forgets," his extensive soloing seems like nice work until Yahel finally gets a look in more than halfway through and takes things in another direction. As a result, the first Yaya3 album comes off as a record brimming with possibilities for a trio with a distinctive blend, but one on which many of those possibilities remain so far unrealized.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann