Three musical masters, each with a command of his respective instrument whether performing solo, as leader or as accompanist, the Yes! trio embodies the very lifeblood and enduring purpose of jazz. Omer Avital (bass), Aaron Goldberg (piano), and Ali Jackson (drums), represent 20 years of shared experience that is as diverse and vibrant as their individual backgrounds. Avital, an Israeli of Yemeni/Moroccan descent; Jackson, a Detroit-raised Black American with Islamic roots, and Goldberg, a Jewish Bostonian, bring a tremendous wealth of experience to their first recording as a trio, Yes! (Sunnyside)
Extracts from a recent four-star DownBeat review confirms Yes!’ appeal:
“Yes! is performed with such confidence and finger-snapping sense of relaxation/jubilation that its whole is greater than its parts. One might expect this trio to bust out of the gate at warp speed, perhaps plying Latin rhythms, folk melodies, or progressive improvisations (as Goldberg did on the recent Bienstan with Guillermo Klein) in a burst of Manhattan-centric energy. Jackson/Goldberg/Avital instead take a traditional approach to Monk, Ellington, and Abdullah Ibrahim, then jump on Avital’s romping title track with a shared sense of joy. Highlights are many: the lovely warmth of Avital’s solo over Jackson’s brushwork in his sweet ‘El Soul’; the Basie-esque sizzle of Mercer Ellington’s ‘Way Way Back’; the feeling between the notes of Ibrahim’s inchworm-like ‘Maraba Blue’; the funky butt groove of Duke Ellington’s ‘The Shepherd.’
The Yes! trio . . . takes their sweet time, and puts some serious soul to CD.”
Yes!’ familiarity and flow is founded in the trio’s shared history. The members of the trio met in the early 90s during their formative years at Manhattan School of Music, the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, and eventually, on the road. After many gigs working together and apart the trio first recorded together on Avital’s 2006 release, The Ancient Art of Giving. Additionally, Avital, Goldberg, and Jackson have stellar credits as both leaders and sidemen. Goldberg has recorded four albums as a leader and has been a regular member of groups led by Joshua Redman, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and Al Foster and a co-leader of projects with Guillermo Klein. Jackson is a longstanding member of Wynton Marsalis’ small groups and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
Avital, with eight album credits as a leader, is one of the busiest bassists and project leaders in jazz, as a collaborator with such NYC peers as Jason Lindner and Avishai Cohen, as well as a variety of Middle Eastern and North African artists, and alongside Roy Haynes and Jimmy Cobb. But there is an undeniable quality to their work as Yes! that is not present on their other recordings or shared pursuits.
“We each have our individual projects as leaders,” Goldberg says, “but nevertheless this band has been a band for almost 20 years without ever recording in the studio. The songs that we recorded were simply songs that we all loved and wanted to record at that moment. Some were familiar, others were new. We just wanted to go in there and play, i.e., we wanted to make a ‘playing’ record that represented what we do organically without a lot of conceptual planning.”
“Elasticity is one of our great strengths as a trio,” Jackson adds. “As our professional artistic experiences have increased over the years so has our artistic ambition. We’re using international folk music and music from other cultures inside the fundamental and primary elements of jazz, blues and swing. Out of all of these ideas and concepts we always arrive at a feel-good vibe and swinging music. When we play together there is only one rule – fun!”