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Yotam Silberstein's Painstaking Passion Shines On 'The Village'

Mar 16, 2017
Originally published on March 16, 2017 8:35 pm

For a musician, Israel's compulsory military service has its challenges and opportunities. Yotam Silberstein used every moment of his military downtime to practice the jazz guitar. When he got out of the army, he became one of Israel's most renowned young players — but he still had a big move ahead of him.

In 2005, Silberstein left his thriving career in Israel after winning a scholarship to study music in New York. But it wasn't long before Silberstein's classic style attracted the attention of older players like James Moody and The Heath Brothers. He also spent over a decade paying his dues on the scene as a sideman and a leader. On his fifth album, The Village, Silberstein celebrates the jazz community he's created in the city.

The album is also a global statement, with music inspired by and drawn from the Middle East, Spain, Argentina and especially Brazil. As a teenager, Silberstein first came to jazz through bossa nova, and his ongoing affinity for Brazilian music takes the form of a daring challenge on The Village. Though the difficult choro tune "O Vôo Da Mosca" was originally written for the mandolin, Silberstein spent years translating it to the guitar — and gave himself tendinitis in the process.

Silberstein's facility on the guitar is superb, but that alone barely gets you in the club door today. You can tell a lot about a jazz musician by how he composes for other instruments, and by what he plays when his bandmates are soloing. It's in this reconciliation of the self to the collective that Silberstein shines, such as in his comping behind pianist Aaron Goldberg's solo on "Nocturno."

The Village is Silberstein's first self-produced record, and listeners might argue with a couple of his decisions. But Silberstein's good-natured willingness to work and explore is exactly what helped him get this far in jazz — and, along with his fluidity on the guitar and love of the scene, it'll take him wherever he wants to go in the music.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In Israel, military service is compulsory. For a musician who needs to practice constantly, that presents challenges but also opportunities. Yotam Silberstein used every moment of his military downtime to practice the jazz guitar. When he got out of the army, he became one of Israel's most renowned young players. Now more than a decade later, he's in the U.S., and he's released his first self-produced record. It's called "The Village," and Michelle Mercer has our review.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOTAM SILBERSTEIN SONG, "LENNIE BIRD")

MICHELLE MERCER, BYLINE: When Yotam Silberstein won a scholarship to study music in New York in 2005, he left a thriving career in Israel and started over. But it wasn't long before Silberstein's classic style attracted the attention of older players like James Moody and Paquito D'Rivera. And he spent over a decade paying his dues on the scene as a sideman and a leader.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOTAM SILBERSTEIN SONG, "LENNIE BIRD")

MERCER: On his fifth album, "The Village," Silberstein celebrates the jazz community he's created in the city. Here's the title track, one of the record's eight original compositions.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOTAM SILBERSTEIN SONG, "THE VILLAGE")

MERCER: Silberstein's album "The Village" is also a global statement with music inspired and drawn from the Middle East, Spain, Argentina and especially Brazil.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOTAM SILBERSTEIN SONG, "O VOO DA MOSCA")

MERCER: As a teenager, Silberstein first came to jazz through bossa nova, and his ongoing affinity for Brazilian music took the form of a daring challenge here. Though this difficult choro tune, "O Voo Da Mosca," was written for the mandolin, Silberstein spent years and gave himself tendinitis translating it to the guitar.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOTAM SILBERSTEIN SONG, "O VOO DA MOSCA")

MERCER: Silberstein's facility on the guitar is superb, but that alone barely gets you in the club door today. You can tell a lot about a jazz musician by how he composes for other instruments and by what he plays when his bandmates are soloing. It's in this reconciliation of the self to the collective that Silberstein shines.

(SOUNDBITE OF AARON GOLDBERG, REUBEN ROGERS AND YOTAM SILBERSTEIN SONG, "NOCTURNO")

MERCER: Listen to his comping, or musical support, behind pianist Aaron Goldberg's solo here.

(SOUNDBITE OF AARON GOLDBERG, REUBEN ROGERS AND YOTAM SILBERSTEIN SONG, "NOCTURNO")

MERCER: "The Village" is Silberstein's first self-produced record, and listeners might argue with a couple of his decisions. But Silberstein's good-natured willingness to work and explore is exactly what helped him get this far in jazz. And along with his fluidity on the guitar and love of the scene, it'll take him wherever he wants to go in the music.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOTAM SILBERSTEIN SONG, "PARABENS")

SIEGEL: Michelle Mercer reviewed Yotam Silberstein's album "The Village."

(SOUNDBITE OF YOTAM SILBERSTEIN SONG, "PARABENS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.