Ezra Weiss: Persephone (2005)
In Greek myth, when Hades abducted Demeter's daughter, the heartbroken harvest deity plunged the Earth into icy cold. But the gods were able to work out a deal. During part of the year, Persephone would reside with her husband in the underworld and winter would descend. When the beautiful being once again emerged to be with her mother, spring's ripe buds would penetrate the soil, engulfing the planet in summer blooms. Named for this ethereal figure, Ezra Weiss' second studio album shifts with as much light and color as an autumn landscape shrouded by the rays of a harvest moon.
Breezy saxophone lines kick off the first track, "Lord Give Me Wings, as well as a panic that this might be another jazz record with wide spanning horns, gentle piano comping, and splashy drums seizes. But its fantastic musicianship is quickly ascertained. The horn playersMichael Phillip Mossman (trumpet, flugelhorn), Antonio Hart (alto saxophone, flute), and Kelly Roberge (tenor saxophone, clarinets)glide over their instruments with comfort; Leon Lee Dorsey creates an underlying darkness on bass; Billy Hart and Jason Brown concoct chilling scenes with shattering drums passages; and Weiss tethers the group with subtle piano chords.
Giving thoughtful consideration to each instrument, Weiss composes well for this group. With an abundance of horns, the melodic options are countless, and he takes advantage, commanding willowy lines that intersect then reconvene in counterpoint or in harmony on the slow track "Rise And Fall. A villainous trumpet solo by Mossman on "Winter Machine creates a portrait of a fertile planet becoming a barren wasteland. Hart's alto saxophone sways gracefully across a calm surface on "The Dancer that slowly evolves with the emergence of Dorsey's contemplative bass solo.
As a group the sextet sets varying moods. Everyone contributes a classy essence to "Family Song which begins with a sumptuous swagger from the rhythm section. Weiss seduces on keys making them glisten ever so softly. When the horns come in, they blend into an irresistible undulation.
The title track bursts with harmonious exchanges between ringing piano chords and flowing flute. Weiss' solo piano flowers with clarinet lines that curl up like fiddleheads. The tune stays demure throughout its 6:40 duration, continuing along the same even plain, reminding that mother and daughter have much to cover as the last of March's snow melts away.
Track Listing: Lord Give Me Wings; Rise and Fall; Family Song; Winter Machine; The Dancer; Capricorn; Persephone; Laugh at Yourself; Spring.
Personnel: Ezra Weiss: piano; Michael Philip Mossman: trumpet, flugelhorn; Antonio Hart: alto saxophone, flute; Kelly Roberge: tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Leon Lee Dorsey: bass; Billy Hart: drums (1,4,5,7,9); Jason Brown: drums (2,3,6,8).