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Yur Yesli Quartet at Kansas Smitty’s

Yur Yesli Quartet (Kansas Smitty’s Bar. 1 August 2019. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

Yur Yesli (iPhone snap by Sebastian)

What would George Benson have done? If he had played the same series of victorious, emphatic chords that 23-year old Yur Yesli did last night to end a solo on Charlie Parker’s Visa, he would have given a broad smile, then gracefully received the adulatory applause from a large audience of dedicated fans, and maybe even reached for a handkerchief to remind us the effort he had expended. What would Tal Farlow have done? If he had landed on some of the outlandishly colourful voicings that Yur Yesli was finding last night, he might have done an obviously uncomfortable contortion, or perhaps reached up the fingerboard with his right hand and carefully struck another particularly descriptive low note to bring things to a full stop. The thing one notices about Yur Yesli is that he does all these remarkable things, but achieves them without any histrionics or attempts to attract attention. He just naturally, modestly, good-naturedly treats it all as business as usual and gets on with it. It is as if he might not actually know how good he is yet. Audiences are given a choice: either to listen to him or to take him for granted. So, whereas I noticed one couple at Smitty’s concentrating intently, another couple was more intent on providing each other with a running commentary on who was about to eat the next piece of their pizza. Yesli was born in Algeria, grew up in Montreal, and at the age of 14 moved to Vienna. He came to London at the age of 18 to study Popular Music Performance at BIMM London, where he did a bachelor’s degree. It has been during his time in London that jazz has become a serious pursuit. For last night he had devised a clever programme of tunes associated with Bill Evans and assembled a top-flight group of jazz players to work with him. With the exception of a soulful My Foolish Heart and a heartfelt introduction to Waltz for Debby, the melodic lead was mostly given to alto saxophonist Sam Braysher. Braysher becomes more imposing and fluent as a soloist all the time and was on great form last night. Drummers don’t come more creative and supportive than Steve Brown, and bassist Dario Di Lecce showed a range of soloing, and the decisiveness, strength and insistence of his repeated dominant pedal in Waltz for Debby stay firmly in the memory. Yur Yesli is an exciting prospect. Please can somebody tell him.

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