To paraphrase an old saying, don't judge a CD by its cover.
In the case of guitarist/composer Yotam Silberstein's second CD, "Next Page" - his first for Posi-Tone Records - the blank cover belies the gifts of a talented musician.
Just basing the review on Silberstein's guitar mastery, the Tel Aviv, Israel native is a four-star performer.
His diversity on the guitar is notable.
Whether it's the easy, laid back coffee house atmosphere of "Borsht," or the Bossa Nova-infused licks on "Ani Eshtagea," Silberstein knows his stuff.
He has toured throughout Europe and the Middle East, and his guitar playing frequently haunts the New York jazz scene. At the age of 21 he was named "Israeli Jazz Player of the Year."
Songs like "Foolin Myself" hearken back to earlier forms of jazz. At times it's as if you're sitting in a 1950s or 60s jazz club.
It's as composer that Silberstein has less mastery. I'm not sure if it's the compositions or his backing band, but the solos he writes for others seem to fall flat at times or run repetitive.
On "Cancao," Chris Cheek's tenor saxophone lags, it's a little too ponderous. The song is rescued when Silberstein and organist Sam Yahel swap solo runs.
That's not to say Cheek's sax - or that all of the solos Silberstein wrote for others - are lost causes as on "Weekend in Mizpe" Cheek's sultry saxophone moves the mood along.
On other songs, Yahel's organ is a nice complement to Silberstein's guitar
"Blues for 007," for example, finds Yahel demonstrating some impressive range on the keyboard. At one point in the song, though, Silberstein gives Yahel a little too much room to roam. The organ chops become repetitive and almost start sounding like an organ grinder.
The most satisfying song on the CD, "If I Would Leave You," puts Silberstein's guitar work front and center, paced by sharp drumming from Willie Jones III.
I could listen to a whole album of Silberstein's smooth guitar playing with some well paced backing musicians.
On "Next Page," though, Silberstein's compositions lag when his backing band is expected to pull off solo work.
Altogether it's not a bad CD. It's one I might borrow from the library...but one I probably wouldn't run out and buy.