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

Yotam Silberstein's fifth album, <em>The Village</em>, is out now.
Gulnara Khamatova
Courtesy of the artist
Yotam Silberstein's fifth album, The Village, is out now.

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.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.