Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on December 30, 2022

On “Better Than Silver and Gold,” Yelena brings to fruition a long incubated vision of interpreting the Psalms via modern jazz idioms. The Psalms, written to be played and sung, have rarely been interpreted by Jazz musicians (a notable exception is John Coltrane’s “Psalm” from another deeply spiritual expression, “A Love Supreme.”) As on all of Yelena’s recordings, the musicianship is outstanding, whether playing behind her two excellent vocalist choices – Tomas Cruz or Kim Mayo – or rendering Yelena’s compositions instrumentally. The musicians interplay – Ralph, Ben, Christian, Drew, and Joey is consistently inspired in that word’s original spiritual meaning –“ to breathe into, to impart a truth or idea to someone.”
Whether interpreted vocally or instrumentally, the major themes of the Psalms are all here – the greatness of God, praises of his Glory, his goodness, kindness, love, caring for the oppressed, and the goal of our future. Yelena’s journey is our journey – searching for truth and meaning in an incomprehensible world. The biblical David, author of many of the Psalms, played his harp for King Samuel to drive out the evil spirits. Let this music have its own effect on you.
The title reflects a passage found both in Proverbs and The Book of Job: Where Can Wisdom Be Found? The ocean depths say, ‘It is not in me,’ while the sea declares, ‘It is not with me.’ It cannot be bought with gold, nor can its price be weighed out in silver. Just listen for it.
Also, it should be mentioned that on Better Than Silver and Gold, Yelena’s text of the Psalms is presented without change, word-for-word, from the King James Version of the Bible. A challenge she faced was to keep every word in its place, yet to create recognizable melodies and music that would make sense overall in a jazz idiom.