James Weidman: Three Worlds (2009)
Three Worlds is the product of a thoughtful musical soul. Pianist James Weidman is well-versed in the traditional and modern jazz vocabulary and has found ways of deftly incorporating what's he's heard into his playing and composing. And here he adds color to his pianistics with melodica and the exotic xaphoon, a single-reed keyless bamboo wind instrument.
He's found a great assemblage of modern players to realize his various musical visions. Particularly and delightfully surprising are reedman Marty Ehrlich and trombonist Ray Anderson, who manage to inject their very adventurous ideas into what might be more conventional settings but never are. On "Drop Zone" they play the shuffling melody over Weidman's quirky harmonic shifting and, after the leader's subtle and intimate but pointed solo, return with a short, brooding, but funky lead from Anderson and a chorus of alto lyricism from Ehrlich. And it's terrifically welcome to have vibraphonist Jay Hoggard back again. The "you" or "yous" that he is playing to in "Theme for You" must be delightful and free-spirited.
Throughout, Weidman and band mates are buoyed by just the right combination of pulse and melodicism from the sterling rhythm playing of Brad Jones (bass) and Francisco Mela (drums). They're never in the way and when they solo they say what they have to saywhich is always about the tune in questionwith succinctness and precision.
Weidman is a player who knows what he wants to say even as he tries new things. The album never settles into one thing, allowing for personal expression while also presenting a groove in all its contexts.
Track Listing: Mirrored Images; Drop Zone; The World Within; Razz 2.0; Our Journey (Intro); Our Journey; Questful: Theme For You; Backtrackn; When We Met; Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.
Personnel: James Weidman: piano, melodica, xaphoon; Marty Ehrlich: alto saxophone, clarinets; Ray Anderson: trombone; Brad Jones: bass; Francisco Mela: drums.