Painting Sounds Using a Palette of Shadowy Colors From Pop and Postbop
The Hammond B-3 organist Sam Yahel began his second set at the Jazz Standard on Tuesday night with a row of intervals arranged to avoid any hint of resolution. This dash of atonality was fleeting - after a minute or two he plunged into a tune along with guitar and drums - but Mr. Yahel made it an efficient statement of purpose. This was an organ-trio gig, he seemed to be saying, but maybe not in all the ways you might expect.
There was no outright blues in the set, and not much in the way of punchy riffs or silvery runs. What emerged instead was a dark-hued sensibility indebted to several shades of pop and world music, as well as the postbop modalities of B-3 heroes like Larry Young. Rhythm functioned as considerably more than an engine of momentum; it was the heart of the enterprise, almost the main point.
Mr. Yahel (pronounced ya-HEL) has come to his style partly through extensive work in areas just outside jazz. (He appears on the first two Norah Jones albums, and on the latest by Madeleine Peyroux.) His most visible role in recent years was as a member of the Elastic Band, a groove-oriented project of the tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman that usually featured Brian Blade on drums. For his rewarding and self-assured new album, "Truth and Beauty" (Origin), Mr. Yahel enlisted Mr. Redman and Mr. Blade, deriving obvious comfort in their rapport. (The same three musicians can be also heard on "Yaya3," a 2002 release that represents Mr. Yahel's last output as a leader, or at least a nonsideman.) At the Jazz Standard though, during a two-night run, he had a different crew. Curiously enough, this might have been for the best.
The guitarist Lionel Loueke and the drummer Francisco Mela brought fresh vitality to the bandstand: right from the first tune, they produced an engagingly slippery undercurrent that Mr. Yahel seemed to relish. Another piece, "Oumou," rode a sinuous 5/4 pulse that Mr. Mela approached from multiple angles. Mr. Loueke did much the same in his gripping solo: turning asymmetry into a plot device, he gave the impression of feeling his way through the form, phrase by phrase.
Mr. Yahel played thoughtfully and commandingly throughout the set, making the most of his resources. He allowed himself some faintly churchy timbres in "Jealous Guy," the John Lennon song, and later gave himself room to roar on a vintage original called "Hometown." Closing with "And Then Some," another older tune by Mr. Yahel, he kept up both a low churn and a midrange chatter, deeply engaged in polyrhythm. Beside him, his band mates gleefully slashed away, sounding reluctant to let the groove fade.