Aaron Goldberg / Ali Jackson Jr. / Omer Avital: Yes! (2012)
The strains of wistful longing are almost palpable right through the length and breadth of Yes!, a remarkable album by a remarkable trio. Pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Omer Avital and drummer Ali Jackson Jr. play with such empathy that they appear of one mind, body and soul. This is the stuff that significant music has been made of for decades, which is why this trio sounds as if it were raising the ghost of those of the great Ahmad Jamal. Few records can compare with Yes! for its sheer beauty, singular brevity of statement, richness of ideas and absolutely virtuosic perfection. Such complete beauty is rare in a world where so many bright minds are dazzled and so overrun by instrumental prowess that statements often turn out to be glib, and even interesting voices are snuffed out for want of subtlety in dynamic, tone, texture and instrumental timbre. What's more, there is a complete lack of a sense of history amongst too many musicians; but not these ones.
Part of Goldberg's ingenuity is that he appears to be a keen student of musical history. This is why pianists as diverse as Willie "The Lion" Smith, Thelonious Monk, Abdullah Ibrahim and Keith Jarrett lurk inside his feverish brain. He has listened intently to these masters, intently chopping up their essences and grinding the result into one authentic and personal voice which is singularly spare and intensely lyrical. Sensing the mood and emotion of the songs, Goldberg issues brightly colored, darting and probing lines that rise like the flight of so many beautiful butterflies. Avital's audacious, forthright and folksy style is a perfect foil for this sensuous approach, and the rusts and golden shades which he uses dapple the melody of songs with tonal brilliance and a sweeping palette of colors. Avital recalls the ebullience of the kibbutz as much as he does the blues of Charles Mingus. And then there is Jackson Jr., a percussionist who plays with superior intellect, like a young Max Roach, whose choice of gently stammering notes takes precedence over bludgeoning technique. Using this melodic approach, Jackson Jr. brings sweetness to the music that is otherwise elegiac and ponderous and beautiful but often sad.
Despite thisor, perhaps, because of tracks such as "Maraba Blue" and the longing of "Homeland"the music is uplifting and triumphant. The emotional artery that feeds the music played by these old cohorts becomes a mature blush that reaches one of its many high points on charts like "Epistrophy" and "Manic Depressive." This is when their empathy is at its greatest and the glue that binds the musicians shifts from one to the other as they showcase their enormous skills, rendering the album memorable for more than one reason.
Track Listing: Maraba Blue; Yes!; Aziel Dance; Epistrophy; El Soul; Way, Way Back; Homeland; The Shepherd; Manic Depressive.
Personnel: Aaron Goldberg: piano; Omer Avital: bass; Ali Jackson Jr.: drums.
Record Label: Sunnyside Records