Primary Instrument: Guitar
Although he has been a working pro on the New York scene for the past 25 years, guitarist James Silberstein had been flying somewhat under the radar . . . until now. An accomplished player who combines the warm tone and remarkably fluid single note burn of a Pat Martino, Tal Farlow or Joe Diorio with a capacity for harmonic sophistication, uncommon lyricism and a penchant for alluring bossa novas, Silberstein crafts an invigorating and appealing collection of standards and originals on Song for Micaela, his long overdue debut as a leader. Along for the ride are the guitarist's core working rhythm section of bassist/producer Tony Cimorosi and drummer Vince Cherico as well as such stellar guests as trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonist Eric Alexander, pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Harvie S and vocalist Carla Cook. Together these seasoned jazz artists swing with authority while engaging in some fiery interplay along the way.
Silberstein and crew open the collection in easy mid-tempo mode on James' original, Red Carpet. Cimorosi's steady walking bass lines and Cherico's light, interactive touch provide a solidly swinging foundation for potent solos by both Brecker and Silberstein on this jaunty quartet number. Carla Cook then unveils her hauntingly beautiful delivery on a poignant reading of the gorgeous Sergio Mendes ballad So Many Stars, which also features nimble, engaging solos from guitar and piano. Silberstein burns a blue streak on Horace Silver's Nica's Dream, a spirited post-bop romp that also features Brecker and Alexander on the frontline and is fueled by the surging rhythm tandem of bassist Harvie S and drummer Cherico. The easy grooving blues Aquas is Silberstein's answer to Horace Silver-Bobby Timmons soul-jazz anthems like Juicy Lucy and Dat Dere, while House Party is a funk-fueled throw-down with the full ensemble featuring some sizzling solo contributions from Brecker, Silberstein, Alexander and Barth on Fender Rhodes electric piano.
On a burning up-tempo trio rendition of Cole Porter's Love For Sale, Silberstein pulls out all the stops and unleashes one of his most impressive, fleet-fingered solos on the collection. His combination of impeccable articulation, fluent lines and sheer blazing speed here is yet more evidence of the guitarist's infinite capacity to burn. Elsewhere, he renders Irving Berlin's How Deep Is The Ocean as an alluring bossa-samba in a pared down trio setting, then brings back Alexander for a buoyant, up-tempo take on Anthony Newley's signature piece, Who Can I Turn To, which serves as a perfect vehicle to showcase the young tenor titan's ability to blow through the changes with relentless drive and a robust, deep tone. Silberstein adds another flawlessly facile single note solo here that is firmly in the swinging tradition of jazz guitar elders like Chuck Wayne, Bucky Pizzarelli and Mundell Lowe.
Silberstein strikes an evocative note on Song for Micaela, an appealing bossa nova original written for his daughter, and he engages in some loose-hip interplay with bassist Harvie S and drummer Cherico on an easy-swinging trio rendition of the oftrecorded jazz standard You're My Everything. Harvie offers up a lyrical solo here while James and Vince exchange some tight fours that reveal their obvious chemistry together. Sticking with the trio format, Silberstein, Cimorosi and Cherico turn in an affecting jazz waltz rendition of Baubles, Bangles & Beads, which features a particularly fiery solo from the guitarist. And the collection closes on a beautifully introspective note with James' virtuosic unaccompanied take on the affecting Mickey Leonard composition, Why Did I Choose You, which stands as a veritable clinic in the art of solo guitar. As he explained, I've done a lot of solo guitar gigs over the years, so having at least one solo piece on the CD seemed to be a good way of demonstrating a different aspect of my playing. I love playing solo. It's really challenging to try to come up with counterpoint lines and appealing harmonies in developing arrangements of standard tunes.
Born in New York City, Silberstein grew up in White Plains before his family moved back to the big City when he was 16. Two years later, he met the Brazilian guitarist Gaudencio Thiago de Mello, who would become an important mentor for the developing guitarist. While soaking up the sounds of Brazilian music from de Mello and from the recordings of other Brazilian guitarists like Baden Powell and Bola Sete, James also began immersing himself in jazz guitar by checking out key recordings and hanging out at New York clubs like The Guitar, formerly located on 50th Street and 10th Avenue. As he recalled, I started going to The Guitar and other clubs when I was in my 20s and regularly saw great players like Kenny Burrell, Jim Hall, Chuck Wayne, Joe Puma, George Barnes and Bucky Pizzarelli. One of my very favorites was Sam Brown, who had played with Bill Evans and also appeared on records with Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea. He was such a melodic, deep player. He played great chords, had an infinite repertoire and was a beautiful person. I ended up playing a lot of duo gigs with Sam and fortuitously had the opportunity to learn from him at the same time we were gigging.
Silberstein studied briefly with Chuck Wayne and also played with Bucky Pizzarelli. Another important mentor for James during this period was Tim Breen, a journeyman who played with Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, among others. He's one of the greatest guitarists I've heard. Unfortunately, he died earlier this year without ever receiving the due he so deserved -- what a genius . . . an incredible player. Silberstein's other credits during his developing years include gigs with such a diverse list of artists as Larry Elgart's Big Band, The Drifters and Zoot Sims as well as backing comedian Bob Hope. In the early '80s, he spent some time playing at a resort hotel in Georgia, then relocated to Miami, where he befriended fellow jazz guitarist Randy Johnston. Since returning to New York City in the '80s, he's played with a whole host of musicians on the jazz scene including, among others, saxophonists Dave Schnitter and Carter Jefferson and guitarists Peter Leitch and Attilla Zoller and an up-and-coming young vocalist by the name of Norah Jones. James has also been quite active on the private party circuit, which is where he met bassist Tony Cimorosi several few years ago. Tony's been a truly motivating force for me, says James. He persuaded me to do this CD, and helped greatly with the overall concept and involving some of the other players. Tony had played with Vince Cherico and introduced me to him. I really love Vince's playing. He's the perfect drummer for my style of playing. He's so intense, but quiet. He knows how to build dynamics without being overpowering and he's really tuned into the soloist's phrasing.
Together this core trio swings with authority on Song for Micaela. Adding worldclass players like Randy Brecker, Eric Alexander, Bruce Barth and Harvie S to the mix only ups the ante on Silberstein's auspicious debut that has been such a long time in coming. Some people are slow to move forward, the guitarist confesses. Sometimes you really need someone pushing you to be able to progress and develop confidence. So I'm really thankful to Tony for his supportive pushing and to my wife Sarah for her always-on-target insights into what needed work and endless patience in answering questions like: ‘which sounds better here?’ I'm very glad to have done the CD. Being in the studio has been a terrific learning experience -- really focusing on playing precisely and thinking ahead, but also playing with passion and abandon.
And hopefully, there will be more to come from this prodigious guitar talent deserving of wider recognition.
“Express Lane is a second great recording by guitar master James Silberstein. Wonderful standards and some very beautiful originals by James and bassist Harvie S. Express Lane is a must recording for all jazz fans who also love warm, moving melodies.” --Jack Wilkins
“James Silberstein is a great guitarist with something of his own to say. This cd shows his unique gifts as an improviser and composer. His playing is exciting and thoughtful and full of surprises. He has also assembled a stellar cast of musicians whose talents he utilizes to the fullest as part of his own conception. This is a great cd with much depth and many contrasts of mood and feeling.” --Peter Bernstein
”So what is there to really say here? Killer big apple jazzbo guitarist rounds up some first call pals and sets sail for a solid session that any jazz guitar fan should love. On the money throughout with a sound and fury that echoes the greats that have come before him while adding his own colors and tones, this is simply one that should be hanging around your Ipod for those times you want a reliable date to let your ears sink into. Never less than totally satisfying.” (CAP) --Chris Spector Midwest Record