Sam Yahel/Joshua Redman/Brian Blade – Yaya3 (2002)

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by Pico

With the release last month of Truth And Beauty by jazz organ wunderkind Sam Yahel, we find a maturing talent finding his own voice in the crowded field of Hammond B-3 players. But how does Yahel sound when he’s just jammin’ with the boys? The same boys found on Truth And Beauty, in fact?

There is such a document of that scenario from five years ago, and it’s called Yaya3 (or “Yaya” cubed).

YaYa3 was formed by happenstance. Yahel had a gig at the NYC club called Small’s; his guitarist Peter Bernstein (who deserves his own spotlight in this space) couldn’t make it one night so Yahel was able to call up a sax player friend of his to fill in. The friend? That would be none other than Joshua Redman. Brian Blade stayed put behind the drum kit, but instead of it being “The Sam Yahel Trio,” the band transformed into a cooperative. A cooperative they called “YaYa3,” after a nickname of Sam’s.

Warner Brothers, Redman’s record label at the time, jumped on the opportunity to capture the magic created by three heavywights and brought the three into the studio for a one-off collaboration under this moniker. The result is the album we’re chatting up, here.

So, how does two albums by the same personnel but different purposes compare to each other? While Truth could be considered a serious-minded record, YaYa3 finds these same three men feeling loose and in more or a jamming mood. It’s tempting to call this a no-nonsense blowing session, and in fact, I’ll come right out and say that it is. The songs, all originals contributed by the band members (five of the nine tracks by Yahel), stick within the confines of advanced bop.

But all the nuances that graced Truth can be found here. Listening to this record you understand that these guys are good and there’s a summit meeting going on. Repeated spins of this recvord reveal more and more of itself. Like, for instance, Blade’s perfectly-timed flourishes. Or Redman’s soulful swinging. Or Yahel’s ebbing and flowing.

It’s not like these guys are holding back much, either. On the oddly-metred “Switchblade,” Redman throws contemplation out the windows and just cooks on his solo turn, after which Yahel is calling up the ghost of Charles “The Burner” Earland.

On the moodier “The Spirit Lives On,” Redman switches mid-song from tenor to soprano, and just as he really gets it going on the higher-pitched instrument, the song strangely fades out.

The Latin-flavored “Two Remember, One Forgets” goes along nicely as a relaxed piece but the extended coda builds gradually with Redman’s more urgent notes buttressed superbly by Yahel’s varying shadings and swells while Blade throws in a few more fills on each round. It’s a fine example of how well these players understand each other.

No good post-bop record goes without a waltz, and “The Scribe” fills that bill with Redman again on the soprano, this time for the whole song. He lets it sing like a mockingbird before Yahel provides a nicely understated solo.

The CD’s other selections likewise follow the template of good, consistent playing using solidly written compositions. Nothing here breaks new ground, but, hey, that wasn’t called for in the first place.

With no other agenda than to just get together and sizzle, Yahel, Redman and Blade let their hair down without similarly bringing down the level of playing. Yaya3 doesn’t amount to a definitve statement by any of these three masters, but it says a lot about their how fantastic they are when they can play—and compose—at a high level even in a relatively relaxed setting.

Purchase: Sam Yahel/Joshua Redman/Brian Blade – Yaya3

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron

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