Yotam Silberstein And The Responsibility Of Listening

Much to the dismay of his psychiatrist, Tom Cole is an Arts Editor at NPR, and hosts a jazz program on Washington, D.C. station WPFW. From time to time, he'll share some thoughts about music he's been listening to. —Eds.


Guitarist Yotam Silberstein has NPR's Tom Cole musing about why he would make a terrible critic. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the artist.

Yotam Silberstein

I can't tell you how many times I've listened to a few tunes from a new record and dismissed it — only to hear something later on the radio that I liked and then discover that it was on that dismissed CD. (Yes, I still listen to CDs and the radio.)

Unfortunately, I often feel like I'm the first to be dismissive. "Jeez, not another singer-songwriter." "When will the record labels stop pimping physically attractive jazz singers?" Sometimes it's easier not to listen at all — I get a lot of CDs in the mail, so I've been known to do that, too.

Which brings me to a story. One of my pet peeves is the recent fascination with organ combo recordings.

It seems "groove" sells — as much as recordings sell at this point — so everybody and their mothers are making organ combo records.

I was never a huge Jimmy Smith fan; for me, Larry Young was the man. If I want to listen to jazz organ, I just have to go to the killer set Mosaic released and pull one of the sessions with Grant Green, Elvin Jones and Sam Rivers. Besides being a brilliant, adventurous improviser, Young had a light touch — he never overwhelms on an instrument that's easy to use as a cudgel.

I'll never forget what the late guitarist Tiny Grimes said to me once: "Organ players make you lose weight." He meant that he'd have to play so hard to be heard in an organ combo, he'd drop a few pounds in sweat. And he was already a little guy who couldn't really afford to "lose weight."

So, to make a long story even longer, I got an organ combo record in the mail the other day. It's a record by Tel Aviv-born, New York-based guitarist Yotam Silberstein, called Next Page, and I really liked it. Perhaps I didn't automatically dismiss it because the organist is Sam Yahel, whom I'd seen play with guitarist Bill Frisell once and really enjoyed — he got interesting sounds out of his instrument to go along with the always-surprising textures Frisell produces. Yahel plays well on Next Page, as does saxophonist Chris Cheek.

But I was most taken by Silberstein and the tunes. Most are originals, and his tone is unexpectedly warm.

Listen

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"Borsht," from Yotam Silberstein, Next Page. Silberstein, guitars; Sam Yahel, organ; Willie Jones III, drums.

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