You have to admire the patience of David Weiss. For fifteen years he has resisted the impulse to release a debut disc, choosing instead to play a more collaborative role in projects. That choice has been a wise one for Weiss so far, as he has developed a reputation as a first class trumpeter, composer and arranger through performances with artists from Freddie Hubbard to Jimmy Heath, collaborations with Abbie Lincoln and Phil Woods and leadership in the critically acclaimed New Jazz Composers Octet.
But those years may well become known as the “pre- Breathing Room ” years for David Weiss. Because along with being a great recording, Breathing Room sounds like a springboard for great things to come.
The influence of Wayne Shorter looms large over Breathing Room both in composition and execution. Weiss borrows from the Shorter muse with haunting themes, deceptive intros and tough playing, but he is far too restless an artist to settle for imitation. His own compositions like “Breathing Room” and “Dark Forces” deliver intelligently paced, emotionally charged hard bop that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Shorter gems like “Armageddon” and “Those Who Sit And Wait.”
It’s also hard to become bogged down in imitation when one has such restless and remarkable young talent as Marcus Strickland, Craig Handy, Xavier Davis, Dwayne Burno and E.J. Strickland on board. Marcus Strickland is far more extroverted here than he is on his fine debut At Last (Fresh Sounds FSNT 101CD), but that is precisely what is called for on driving hard bop tracks like “Kickback” and his own “Parallel Sonarities.” His bebop interplay with Weiss on “Sonarities” is just one of many memorable exchanges on Breathing Room. But where the superb playing of this sextet and the virtuosity of David Weiss reach their full synthesis is on the Weiss composition “Getaway.” Opening with an instantly memorable theme voiced by trumpet, tenor sax and alto sax, the horns coast on the inventive rhythms of E.J. Strickland until the surprise entrance of electric keyboard. This turns out to be a brilliant decision by Weiss, as Xavier Davis uses his deft touch and the spacey tones of the Fender Rhodes to open up a giant harmonic canvas for the soloists. Each of the players is up to the task, but it is Handy who colors his space most effectively, negotiating sharp turns and creating explorative lines that reach ever higher and higher.
After such fine performances, it’s almost superfluous that Weiss’s democracy of excellence ends on such a high note. Nevertheless, after a breathless exchange of solos, the cooker “Kickback” closes with a knot of intertwining horns that is the most fun of its kind since Lew Tabackin and Phil Woods locked horns on “Limehouse Blues” back in 1981 ( Phil Woods/Lew Tabackin —Evidence ECD 22209-2).
Patience has certainly paid off for David Weiss with Breathing Room. With young artists like Weiss and company playing their hearts out, it’s a great time to be a jazz fan.
Personnel: David Weiss, trumpet; Marcus Strickland, tenor saxophone; Craig Handy, alto saxophone; Xavier Davis, piano; Dwayne Burno, bass; E.J. Strickland, drums.