Standards
Release Date: February 23, 2024
Label: JoJo Records

Standards was created by the astonishing jazz guitarist Yotam Silberstein. He expresses a wish to “bear witness to the better angels of human endeavor” via music. And these six selections — associated with heavyweights from Miles Davis to Rodger and Hammerstein, Victor Young, and many more — might just prove their existence.

On Standards, which releases on February 23 via Jojo Records, Silberstein is joined by a straight-ahead legend in tenor saxophonist George Coleman, bassist’s bassist John Patitucci, and Billy Hart, a living legend of the jazz drumming lineage. Throughout, the guitarist channels the bebop and blues that forged him, into some of the most treasured songs in the Western musical canon.

As Silberstein explains, most of his albums — like 2019’s Future Memories, 2016’s The Village, and 2009’s Next Page — have consisted of original music. However, those steeped in his craft know of his tremendous respect for the tradition of Black American music. Which extends to his collegial relationship with the true heavies on the scene.

“A lot of my work here in New York in the last 20 years has been with some of the jazz masters,” Silberstein explains. “So, I wanted to, first of all, play standards because I had never had a chance to record an album of standards. And also, to do it with the real guys, you know? The heroes.”

By any stretch, Silberstein is one of those “real guys.” JazzTimes has declared his output to be “struck through with passion and intimacy. The New York Times described him as a player who “improvises in a cutting tone and writes heady original tunes that seem to tug the straight-ahead jazz tradition in new directions.” Jazziz placed him among “the most acclaimed young string-benders in the genre.”

The opening track, “Serenata,” was composed in 1947 by Leroy Anderson, and the most famous version was one put to lyrics by Mitchell Parish and sung by Nat King Cole, with George Shearing on piano. “The minute I heard this song, I fell in love with it,” Silberstein says. “We kind of took it to a different place, but I’m happy with it.”

Beija Flor,” composed by Nelson Cavaquinho, is a terrific gateway into Silberstein’s abiding love for Brazilian music, which he has explored extensively in past works. “It’s natural to play that song,” Silberstein says, noting Hart’s long association with Brazilian masters like Joao Gilberto.

Stylistically, Yotam bears the flame of Wes Montgomery in “Lo-Joe.” As T.J. English put it in the liner notes, “for a jazz guitarist, there is no higher calling.” This is a Coleman tune — which should be a standard, and is in Silberstein’s heart and mind: “It’s a great tune that I thought needs more recognition,” he says. “Hopefully, this will shed more light on George’s beautiful compositions.”

If I Loved You” hails from the songbook of the masters: Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rogers, for the Broadway musical Carousel. Famously, Barbra Streisand gave it a spin in the early 1960s: here, Silberstein picks up a steel-string guitar, to spiritually fold into the material via a sense of folky lyricism.

The towering pianist Tommy Flanagan wrote the swinging calypso “Eclypso”: something of a party tune, one that’s a thrill to blow on. “Never Let Me Go” is a sublime ballad written by Jay Livinston, with lyrics by Ray Evans, and interpreted by the greatest jazz voices of all time, from Dinah Washington to Nancy Wilson.

Naturally, as a standards writer of the highest order, Miles Davis makes an appearance on Standards, by way of “Little Willie Leaps” — a contrafact of “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” that the future Prince of Darkness recorded with Charlie Parker.

Just after that tune displays Silberstein at his bebop best, Standards closes with the mother of them all: “Stella by Starlight.” But where some musicians might merely reheat that old standby, SIlberstein voyages to a completely new place — almost, appropriately for Silberstein, Brazilian.

“I'm just happy that they agreed to play with me,” Silberstein says of Coleman, Patitucci, and Hart. “It all seems like a dream come true to have a record with these guys with these legends.”

These songs have been performed, and performed, and performed, seemingly since time immemorial. But in these hands, the crystal is turned in the light once more, and catches more light than you could imagine. The album doesn’t just contain standards: it sets them.

 

LANCE LIDDLE
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
"A good choice of standards for Silberstein's first album of classic songs. " Check out the full review here.

CRAIG BYRD
CULTURAL ATTACHE
"The first thing that stands out to me on this album is that the standards guitarist Silberstein has chosen are not the usual suspects." Check out the full review here.

MATTHIAS KIRSCH
GINA LOVES JAZZ
"He plays spine-tingling notes over a modest bossa beat and thus, brings a new spin to this often-covered classic. Another beauty." Check out the full review here.

TURGAY YALÇIN
DARK BLUE NOTES
"...Standards , contrary to what its name suggests, does not consist entirely of standards, but also includes compositions of jazz masters that are enjoyable to play and listen to." Check out the full review in Turkish here.

STEPHEN GRAHAM
MARL BANK
"They are the gift from Broadway, balladry and bebop - also Brazilian music in this regard - that keep on giving in the right hands as here." Check out the full review here.

NIKKI BIRCH
NPR
Check out this feature on the editor's playlist here.

MATT MICUCCI
JAZZIZ
"...Yotam Silberstein shifts gears with Standards, presenting his interpretations of timeless classics linked to iconic figures like Miles Davis and Rodgers & Hammerstein." Check out this feature on the editor's playlist here.

KEN DRYDEN
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ
"...Silberstein has put together a varied playlist that ranges from light classical to popular standards, classic jazz compositions and a Brazilian gem infrequently recorded by jazz artists." Check out the full review here.

JOHN CHACONA
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Check out the full review here.

MATT MICUCCI
JAZZIZ
Check out this feature on the editor's playlist here.

BILL MILKOWSKI
DOWNBEAT
"Silberstein also turns in a restful acoustic guitar rendition of Richard Rodgers’ “If I Loved You,” while Hart is showcased on Tommy Flanagan’s sprightly “Eclypso.”"Check out this article here.

GEORGE W. HARRIS
JAZZ WEEKLY
"His acoustic guitar is sublime for the romantic “If I Loved You” and serene for the samba’d read of “Stella By Starlight”. Strong strings." Check out this review here.