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Ezra Weiss: The Five A.M. Strut (2003)

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Ezra Weiss: The Five A.M. Strut No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Newcomer Ezra Weiss, a pianist/composer, comes out of the gates blazing on this sextet recording. "Symmetrics," a swinging hard energy run, brings Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers to mind. Each member of the front line – alto and tenor sax and trumpet – gets a solo slot, keeping the heat high before they slip back into Weiss's engaging melody.

The next piece, "A Time for Healing," proves the group knows its way around a ballad, with trumpeter Michael Philip Mossman adding his mute work to the texture in front of Weiss's percussive keyboard work. It's a truly lovely and introspective song, with veteran drummer Billy Hart sounding especially vibrant.

Weiss wisely employs the full sextet straight through rather than go with the atmosphere-weakening quartet/quintet/sextet route that mars so many potentially fine sets.

"Tea Shells" is Weiss's earliest composition included here, written during his sophomore year in college, when he was studying the Woody Shaw Sextet. You can feel Shaw's influence here in the arrangment, with Antonio Hart contributing an inspired alto sax solo.

The one minor quibble with the disc is the inclusion of Weiss's ill-fitting "The Clown Feature." The tune is an interesting departure from the Art Blakey/Horace Silver-like mood of the rest of the set. By itself, nicely done, whimsical and discordant; but it sounds as if it could be a soundtrack for Keystone Cops movie, and detracts from the overall post bop atmosphere Weiss has established. That's a small quibble, because right after this the band rolls into "For the Youngins," featuring a beefy Kelly Roberge tenor sax solo; and it's worth at least one spin of the song just to concentrate on drummer Hart's contribution. Maybe it's just me, but he sounds more energized than I've heard him before.

An auspicious debut from the young pianist/composer.

Visit Ezra Weiss at www.ezraweiss.com .

Track Listing: Symmetrics, A Time for Healing, Tea Shells, One for Wendell, Waiting, The Clown Feature, For the Youngins, The Five A.M. Strut, I Regret

Personnel: Ezra Weiss--piano; Michael Philip Mossman--trumpet; Antonio Hart--alto sax; Kelly Roberge--tenor sax; Leon Lee--bass; Billy Hart--drums

Record Label: Umoja Productions

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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