Yotam Silberstein at Smalls 3/8/18 (by Jeff McGregor)

Yotam Silberstein

PERSONNEL: Yotam Silberstein (guitar), Nitai Hershkovits (piano), Doug Weiss (bass), Kendrick Scott (drums)

SET LIST: I’m Confessin’ That I Love (Smith/Grant), Capricho de Espanha, (Holanda), The Village (Silberstein), De tu lado del mar (Aguirre), McDavid (Silberstein)

HIGHLIGHTS: Silberstein’s arrangement of Carlos Aguirre’s “De tu lado del mar” perfectly set Aguirre’s striking melody. Weiss, Silberstein, and Hershkovits built on each others’ improvisations creating a seamless arc through the form.

The piano/guitar quartet has been a favorite format for Silberstein and one that he has explored throughout his career. As he explained,

I had a teacher that used to say that piano and guitar should just stay out of each other’s way. I have kind of made it my life goal since to prove him different. I love playing with piano and guitar and I think it can be the most wonderful thing, if it is done with care and love.

Silberstein has a long history with pianist Nitai Hershkovits. The two met as teacher and student at an Israeli music camp where Silberstein was teaching.

The set opened with a relaxed and swinging version of “I’m Confessin’ That I Love You.” After a sensitive treatment of the melody, Silberstein dug in, mixing double-time lines and soulful melodies. After solos from Hershkovits and Weiss, Scott returned to brushes for an understated improvisation full of subtle rhythmic tension.

The quartet followed with Silberstein’s arrangement of “Capricho de Espanha,” a fast, intricate melody in five by Brazilian composer Hamilton de Holanda. Against an open pedal, Hershkovits took the first solo overlaying the static harmony with an array of harmonic superimpositions. Scott supported with simmering intensity following Hershkovits to a climactic hit that ended Hershkovits’s solo and began Silberstein’s. Silberstein started in the low register with loose melodies that reset the energy of the group, patiently building towards a final statement of the melody.

“The Village,” the title track from Silberstein’s most recent album, sets a spacious, soulful melody against a fast moving pulse. Over the changes to “It’s Alright With Me,” the solo section swung with a burning series of trades between Silberstein and Hershkovits. Hershkovits’s right hand delivered intricate melodies punctuated by left-hand comping that reminded me of Brad Mehldau. Scott propelled the two with a straightish, quantized swing-feel before taking a powerful solo of his own.

“De tu lado del mar” opened with a duet between the piano and bass. Against a pedal in the bass, Hershkovits sensitively sang Aguirre’s melancholy song. Weiss took the first solo, perfectly extending the yearning romanticism of the opening with Hadenesque melodicism. The set closed with Silberstein’s “McDavid”, an up-tempo calypso with a happy melody. Each soloist was concise, never obstructing the joyful mood of the song, and illustrating the type of “care and love” that is at the heart of this group.