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You Cant Buy Swing by Eli Yamin

One of this reviewer’s joys: A new CD comes in featuring a relative unknown and-from the first listen-I'm elated as to how good it is. Such is Eli Yamin’s You Can’t Buy Swing. The way he embraces Thelonious Monk's style while keeping his own voice, the way he creatively constructs his improvisations is very impressive.

Yamin is director of the Jazz Drama program at Lincoln Center, and this shows in his sense of the dramatic in his compositions. He appears here with a quartet of bassist Ari Roland and drummer Alvin Atkinson, joined by Chris Byars, sax and flute, on all but two tracks, and Lakecia Benjamin, alto sax, on the others.

This album's title comes from a saying by a drummer who worked often with Yamin, the late Walter Perkins: "You can't buy swing, baby sweets. You can take the biggest name musicians and pay 'em a whole bunch of money and it's not necessarily going to swing." But this record certainly does swing.

The opening track, "I Want To Be A Teacher" and "Well, You Better Not" are taken from jazz dramas Yamin wrote with Monk in mind. On both, he pays tribute to the master with jagged, bristling runs.

On the title selection, young Benjamin shows off her prowess on alto, accompanied by an infectious, finger-popping beat from drummer Atkinson. Her dizzying spirals of sound highlight "Katiana's New Start," along with Yamin’s hard-driving, rocking piano. On this, Roland effectively uses bowed-bass, which is his first option in solos throughout.

The centerpiece is "Rwandan Child." Roland’s portentous bass introduces a searing portrait of the African country’s plight, with Yamin’s piano reaching a stirring, heart-rending climax.

Byars' mellow, Coleman Hawkins/Illinois Jacquet-like sound on tenor sets the mood for "Jacquet’s Meditation"; Roland, again bowing, adds to the mellow mood. Byars’ flute comes into play, skipping along at a sprightly gait, in "Waltz on the Hudson." And on this, listen to how Yamin builds to a climax-truly jazz invention at its peak.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Eli Yamin
  • CD Title: You Cant Buy Swing
  • Genre: Various Jazz Styles
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Self Produced
  • Tracks: I Want To Be A Teacher, You Can’t Buy Swing, Getting Somewhere, Well, You Better Not, Bop To Norma, Rwandan Child, Just One, Katiana’s New Start, Jacquet’s Meditation, Waltz On The Hudson, In Walked Barry
  • Musicians: Chris Byars(saxophone, flute, conga) Lakecia Benjamin (saxophone), Ari Roland (bass), Alvin Atkinson (drums), Eli Yamin (piano)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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