Yes! Trio’s New Album ‘Groove du Jour’ Reviewed

I was introduced to Aaron Goldberg through his Worlds album; I heard him play at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2008 and got really hung up on his version of “Lambada de Serpente”. It’s a playful composition, with sensitive musical interaction between his key work, Eric Harland’s drumming, and Reuben Roger’s bass bowing. The whole record was solid, but that one track with a bouncing, restorative island vibe grabbed me.

Fast forward to a quickly fading 2019, and I take in “Claqué” by the Yes! Trio on their new release, Groove du Jour. Same piano wizard, different musical outfit. This time Goldberg is working with Ali Jackson and Omer Avital and the composition is just a wobbly, kinetic groover (channeling the album’s title I presume). It feels like the funk that Medeski, Martin, and Wood sometimes feed at the end of a track (read “Reflector”), but instead of leaving you thirsty after a short 20-second gulp, you get to chug along for four and a half minutes. Avital’s double bass at the opening celebrates all that is good with the bleating acoustic sound, settling behind the melody once the song falls into place. The kinetic rhythm is thrown along by Jackson’s New Orleans style tambourine and snare work, and a wonderfully crunchy piano phrase that gets repeated and played off of until it shimmies out the door and down the street. I just love it and feel like it is worth the price of admission for the rest of the LP, just like “Lambada de Serpente” on Worlds.

Little did I know until digging deeper that Groove du Jour is the second opus produced by this trio of musicians that all honed their playing in New York City during the mid-1990s at the then-new and burgeoning venue Smalls Jazz Club. While these men developed independent of one another, their shared roots led them to eventually combine forces and release the self-titled Yes! Trio in 2012. By this time, they had threaded through each other’s careers as sidemen for players such as Kurt Rosenwinkel, Wynton Marsalis, and the Cohens (Anat, Avishai, and Yuval), and their experience led to a connection that is on display in Groove du Jour’s 10 tracks.

One of the wonderful aspects of the Yes! Trio, beyond their expert musicianship and sonic communication as a group, is how they celebrate many different styles. The songwriting duties are shared amongst all three members, while also paying respect to several masters of the past with the inclusion of Jackie McLean’s “Dr. Jackle” and the Fain/Kahal tune “I’ll Be Seeing You”, best known from the Billie Holiday and Bing Crosby versions recorded in the 1940s. Omer Avital’s composition “C’est Clair” is a noteworthy take, quietly creeping in and swaying ever so lightly to Jackson’s simmering swing. It keeps building its bluesy form, never becoming too large before diminishing and creeping back up again. And then just a little bit after the 6-minute mark, Ali Jackson pulls out the tambourine once again, convincing me of how much I enjoy some well-played hand percussion. This track is more laid back when compared to the block party of “Claqué”, but is one of numerous elements that round out Groove du Jour and make it exciting to return to and explore with multiple listens.

Feels like: A Ramsey Lewis The In Crowd rolling vibe, where everyone is invited to the party
Pair with: Short rib tacos with spicy slaw
Share with: Friends that like engaging music that pulls you in and asks you to give it just a little more attention, without being overly hard to consume or blend into a casual social situation

Groove du Jour, the new album by Aaron Goldberg, Omer Avital and Ali Jackson’s Yes! Trio is out now on the Jazz & People label.