How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Trumpeter-composer-arranger David Weiss is back with The Mirror, a very solid set of sextet and octet performances which proves that today's younger jazz musicians are making compelling music right here, right now. David Weiss creates challenging structures for improvisation, but he and his sidemen always remember to swing.
The opening track, "Stalker," is a prime example of how Weiss' music works. After an urgent theme statement, the improvisers negotiate a 7/4 vamp that segues into an up-tempo, hard-swinging minor blues. Weiss opens with a direct, no-nonsense trumpet solo, followed by alto saxophonist Walden, who explores overtones during the vamp section and then launches an unpredictable flight during the blues section, examining a descending motive in a style that shows a healthy Ornette Coleman influence. The excitement builds as tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland burns over the vamp and pianist Xavier Davis builds a thoughtful yet powerful blues solo. First class music by all hands.
Marcus Strickland continues to impress, as does his brother, drummer E.J., who whips up a storm on the sextet tracks, deftly placing accents that compliment the soloists most effectively. Weiss has a lyrical side to his playing, brought to the fore by his burnished trumpet sound. His arrangements are quite effective, managing to make a small group sound larger and fuller, much as Tadd Dameron used to do. On the sextet tracks, Walden presents an original voice on alto sax. He's not content to merely run chord changes, as he explores attack and pitch as well.
The last two tracks on The Mirror are by the New Jazz Composers' Octet. The Wayne Shorter piece "Mr. Jin" is notable for a searing tenor sax solo by the young veteran Craig Handy, which alone is worth the price of admission. The Mirror may not be where jazz is going, but it offers a healthy snapshot of where jazz is right now.
Track Listing: Stalker, The Mirror, Nostalghia, Our Trip, The Sacrifice, Love Letter To One Not Yet Met, Mr. Jin.