David Weiss: The Mirror (2004)
Stills from the film Stalker, by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, decorate the cover of the second album from trumpeter David Weiss; and the film also lends its title to the first and most compelling track on the disc. Perhaps wisely, Weiss refrains from the otherwise obvious choice of using it for the album title as wellprobably the idea of seeing all those CD spines with "David Weiss - Stalker on them didn't seem so appealingchoosing instead the title of another Tarkovsky film and the second track, The Mirror. Equally portentous Tarkovsky titles grace two other Weiss compositions, "Nostalghia [sic] and "The Sacrifice ; Kevin Hays' "Our Trip, a final Weiss creation, "Love Letter to One Not Yet Met, and Wayne Shorter's "Mr. Jin round out the set.
Weiss' writing is always intelligent, often clever, but never strays too far from slightly more exotic variations on the hard bop style like those turned in by artists such as Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorterclearly two of Weiss' bigger musical influences. The trumpeter is also a polished soloist, creating a number of nice moments, like his rhythmic foreshadowing of the transition to swing in his solo on "Stalker, but he shines most in his arrangements, especially when the band expands to an octet for the final two tracks. The ballad "Love Letter to One Not Yet Met, with the octet, is the best example of his ensemble writing and provides the occasion for some of his best trumpet playing on the record as well.
The album's sense of unity also comes from the fairly distinctive voices of Weiss' sidemen. Throughout the first five pieces, E.J. Strickland's quirky, energetic drumming keeps things interesting and pushes the soloists along, filling out the rhythmic space while pianist Xavier Davis and bassist Dwayne Burno often play set rhythmic figures. You miss him a bit when a more restrained Nasheet Waits replaces him on drums for the final two pieces. Davis has an effective understated solo style and E.J.'s twin brother Marcus on tenor sax stretches out nicely, most notably in an enjoyably spacey solo on "Stalker. The formidable Myron Walden on alto rounds out the front line and provides some of the best improvisations on the record. Walden has a winning way of taking whatever musical fragment he finds lying around and repeating, extending, developing it, gradually building with it, in a way reminiscent of some Sonny Rollins solos.
At the February 8th CD release party at Jazz Standard, the full sextet from the recording was present and the band threw a bit of caution to the windthe lively rhythmic interplay between Strickland, Davis, and Burno was in higher relief and the frontline was a bit more daring in their improvisations. As on the record, "Stalker (here the finale) inspired the musicians' best efforts, benefiting from increased drama as the band dropped the dynamic level sharply for the entrance of each new soloist, allowing some extra anticipation to build.
Walden stole the show even more thoroughly hereon the song "Getaway, from Weiss' earlier Breathing Room, he began slowly, with sustained notes, biting on the reed to produce not frantic squeals (à la John Zorn), but soft, almost anguished, cries. After drawing out this eerily quiet beginning, as the tension mounted with the rhythm section pressing on underneath, Walden began gradually building to an impassioned statement that drew shouts of approval from the audience.
Track Listing: 1. Stalker - 10:26; 2. The Mirror - 10:27; 3. Nostalghia - 7:03; 4. Our Trip - 6:35; 5. The Sacrifice - 10:59; 6. Love Letter to One Not Yet Met - 7:45; 7. Mr. Jin - 9:03.
Personnel: David Weiss - trumpet; Myron Walden - alto sax; Marcus Strickland - tenor sax (1-5); Xavier Davis - piano; Dwayne Burno - bass; E.J. Strickland - drums (1-5); Craig Handy - tenor sax (6-7); Steve Davis - trombone (6-7); Norbert Stachel - bari sax and bass clarinet (6-7); Nasheet Waits - drums (6-7)