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Live From New York

April 2006

By Published: April 9, 2006
In one of his most ambitious projects to date, trumpeter David Weiss brought his Wayne Shorter Tribute Big Band into Iridium for a month of Wednesdays exploring the remarkable music of the great saxophonist. Pianist Xavier Davis opened the second set Mar. 22nd with dark rubato rumblings as a prelude to "Genesis before the orchestra entered swinging. Altoist Myron Walden began his solo thoughtfully, over the spacious accompaniment of Davis, bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Nasheet Waits. Davis soloed, deconstructing the melody then bringing the band back to the head, ending with a recapitulation of the introduction. Trumpeter Keyon Harrold and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene were featured on a beautiful arrangement of "Fall with Norbert Statchel's bass clarinet lending a soft full sound to the ensemble's backing. "The Turning Gate by Weiss, featuring Greene's soprano, complemented Shorter's music with a soulfulness underscored by Satchel's baritone sax and Vince Gardner's trombone. A recent Shorter piece, "Pandora Awakened , opened with lush horns atmospherically playing the melody against a counterpoint stated by bass and bass clarinet, after which the band swung with confidence over the rhythm section's funky Latin feel. The set ended with the Jazz Messenger anthem "Mr. Jin , with exciting solos by tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry, trombonist Joe Fiedler and finally the leader on trumpet.

Cuban pianist Aruan Ortiz brought his quartet of Abraham Burton (saxophone), Peter Slavov (bass) and Eric McPherson (drums) into Small's for six sets of intriguing (mostly) original music that revealed an impressive approach to improvising and composing. Ortiz began the third set Mar. 10th with his composition "El Mago , introducing the piece with a flowing folkish motif and hammering rhythmic repetitions that recalled Gonzalo Rubalcaba's extensions of Keith Jarrett. Burton joined in, picking up the melodic line, initially blowing a brooding romantic tenor over the leader's subtle montuno, then increasing the dynamic intensity to a fever pitch, screaming at the top of the tenor's voice and plunging into its deepest depths, Ortiz' piano ringing powerfully in the background driven by McPherson and Slavov's pulsing rhythms.

On "Invisible , Burton coolly blew the familiar Ornette melody while Ortiz mined the composition's virtually unexplored harmonic potential in a call-and- response conversation with McPherson over Slavov's walking bass line. On his own "Green City , a lyrical line a bit like "They'll Never Be Another You , the pianist played with a boppish originality. The set's final selection "Alameda , an exciting modal original by the leader with an elusive rhythmic feel, provoked impassioned performances by the entire band, especially the shrieking Burton and Ortiz, who gave positive meaning to the term intelligent design.

~ Russ Musto

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