Mention the Hammond B-3 organ to a jazzer, and what comes to mind is the soundtrack of '60s barbecues and fish friesˇfunk-based music once so popular that it'll fuel breakbeat remixes and jam bands in perpetuity. However, Hammond bop has also endured a measure of stigmatization; many still see it as a low-rent offshoot of serious music, unless you're referring to a John Coltrane˝inspired grinder such as Blue Note icon Larry Young.
Truth and Beauty, the new disc by busy New Yorker Sam Yahel, manages to sidestep both nostalgia and the kind of kitsch that equates grooves with contemporaneity. This is apparent in the way his trio (with saxist Joshua Redman and drummer Brian Blade) dives right into melody on the disc-opening title track or on "Man o' War"; in the former case, their modified New Orleans shuffle chops the theme into a skewed up-tempo variation on Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway's "Where Is the Love?" On tunes as disparate as Ornette Coleman's "Check Up," Paul Simon's "Night Game" and Gilberto Gil and Jo?o Donato's "A Paz," it's easy to hear why the organist has been on call with both Norah Jones and Steely Dan. As with Young before him, Yahel's breathy but lush lines are designed to boost each soloist, rather than reconnect the Hammond B-3 to its glory days at the center of jazz populism.