(Sam Yahel, B-3 organ; Mike Moreno, elec. & acoustic guitar; Ari Hoenig, drums; Seamus Blake, tenor sax)
Pink Floyd’s Dark of the Moon is surely one of the top iconic rock recordings of all time, especially with audiophiles. We’re nearly all familiar with the wide range of progressive music and sound, the hard-nosed and gloomy lyrics, and the sound effects which have been used as audio equipment tests – the heartbeats, the ticking, the sounds of money. Jazz has evolved greatly in recent years, turning to a wider variety of music for recasting in a jazz mold. Remember it was only in the 1950s that jazz versions of Broadway musicals began being heard. Classical themes were often used by swing bands in the 1930s, but the classical/jazz mix had taken on a new complexity and depth lately. A few rock albums have been given jazz treatments, but I feel this one may well become recognized as the best to date.
Sam Yahel is one of the leaders of the younger B-3 players on the scene today; he has been touted in Down Beat as a Talent Deserving of Recognition for the past four years. In his recent Origin CD, Truth and Beauty, Yahel draws on Brazilian, African and Cuban elements, and feels the B-3 is the perfect instrument for that since you can get really rhythmic and percussive on it. Some of the tracks of the Chesky SACD, such as The Great Gig in the Sky, partake of this world music influence. Seamus Blake’s name was new to me, but he does a masterly, lyrical job of providing the main melodic theme of most of the tunes. Producer Chip Stern has crossfaded the nine tracks into one another, as did The Dark Side. The tunes are arranged in a sort of musical arc that apes that of the original. Sam doesn’t make his B-3 the dominant voice in the mix, as you might expect, but sets up the musical environment for the other players to do their thing. Money is a winner, and my favorite track was Us and Them, with a Brazilian sort of rhythm to it. Stern’s liner notes are good reading, and I appreciate the layout diagram of the four instruments and the location of the SoundField mike, like they still do on some Japanese releases but not often on U.S. CDs. The drum set sounds completely natural and impactful in spite of not having a dozen mikes stuck into it at close range like most recording layouts.
TrackList: Breathe, On the Run Pt. 1, Time, Any Colour You Like, The Great Gig in the Sky, Money, US and Them, Brain Damage, On the Run Pt. 2.
– John Henry