Deborah Weisz is an excellent trombonist, no doubt about that — and she has the resumé to prove it (degrees from UNLV, seven years backing Sinatra); but her debut album, Breaking Up, Breaking Out, delivers much more promise than excitement. While everything flows along well enough from song to song, few sparks are produced, and one feels that in the end neither Weisz nor her teammates was inclined to take any unnecessary chances. The phrase that comes to mind is “playing within themselves.” Of course, an almost certain way to be upstaged on one’s own recording date is to invite a special guest (say, pianist Jim McNeely) to sit in and then open and close the session with his compositions. That’s basically what happens on “Lost” and the title selection, as McNeely gives a concise keyboard clinic on each, in effect reducing everyone else to the status of sideperson (an awkward term, but awkward may well describe the situation). Weisz recovers nicely in between, but even so there are only occasional flashes of the adventurous nature for which her main influences, Carl Fontana, Frank Rosolino and J.J. Johnson, are so widely celebrated. Monk’s “Misterioso,” with plunger mute, is sensual and seductive (with a bright change of pace in midstream), while Wayne Shorter’s “Yes or No” and her own “Three Out of Three Ain’t Bad” show that Weisz does have exemplary chops. And it’s good to hear again a melody as lovely as David Raksin’s theme from the movie The Bad and the Beautiful (“Love Is for the Very Young”), which is well–paired with Monk’s “Ugly Beauty.” Weisz’s other compositions are “Guinnsdom” and “A Certain Sunday Morning,” neither of which draws heavily on one’s memory bank. We’ve not mentioned any of the others, perhaps because they are more workmanlike than flashy, but everyone carries out his/her assignment with poise and propriety (as Jimmy Heath, in whose big band Weisz performs, says in his laudatory liner notes, they “dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s”). McSweeney’s vibrant bass opens “Guinnsdom,” Neumann’s buoyant drum passage does the same on “Yes or No.” Bailey has a number of solos, and none is less than commendable, while Sterman plays respectably on tenor, flute or alto flute. There is much to admire here, and had Weisz and her colleagues chosen to throw a few more coals on the fire, the ensuing blaze might have warmed even the most cold–hearted disposition.
Track listing: Lost; Guinnsdom; Misterioso; A Certain Sunday Morning; Yes or No; Three Out of Three Ain’t Bad; Medley — The Bad and the Beautiful / Ugly Beauty; Breaking Up, Breaking Out (66:28).
Deborah Weisz, trombone; Andrew Sterman, tenor sax, flute, alto flute; Sheryl Bailey, guitar; Mary Ann McSweeney, bass; Scott Neumann, drums; special guest Jim McNeely, piano.