"Timshel," one of the most empowering words from Biblical times, has also become of late one of its most misunderstood, thanks to distortions in its translation from the Hebrew into languages of Greek and Latin roots. Artistically, it was the author John Steinbeck who, in his epic, semi-autobiographical and allegorical tale, East of Eden, set things right for artists who would take note. In the context of his main character setting about to redeem himself, he receives the empowerment with the words given to the Cain of the Bible. "Thou mayest," he is told, "(exercise) free will to redemption..." This is something that Dan Weiss ponders in his superbly crafted album, Timshel. If there is a suggestion that this is a deeply spiritual album then that is probably right. But the drummer, rather than writing music that considers the aspect of redemption solely in the mystical sense, anchors his spirituality in the urban experience. Eden is in his soul but the East, in his mind's eye, also dwells in his existential angst.
Weiss translates this complex theology into a rhythmic excursion that is experimental, but to a great extent also rich in the history of an instrument not generally known for its heraldic role in music. Still, Weiss makes excellent use of his discipline as a polyrhythmic tabla player to rumble and shatter his way into the senses. His forte is a percussion colorist's balance of subtle shading on snare and sometimes short, sometimes long rumbles on the toms, punctuated by precision bombs on the bass drum. His splashes on cymbals are crafty and deliberately struck, resulting in a brightness that pierces the more ponderous aspects of his music. Thus the sonic experience survives being heavy and, while thick with suggestion, is always a pleasure to participate inboth as a musician and as a listener.
The music on Timshel is a loosely connected suite that uses the spiritual awakening of the blessing of "Timshel" to drive most of the pieces that have some composed and largely improvised elements. Weiss has chosen to let the music connect the dots in his experience as he examines relationships, as in the ballad "Stephanie" and "What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?" The suite also includes "Frederic," an impressionistic ode to the ideas contained in Chopin's music. His rhythmic take on a stream-of-consciousness movement from the movie Glengarry Glenross is superbly intriguing as an attempt to capture the rhythm of speech and as an ironic comment on cutthroat consumerism as well.
Weiss reserves his most outstanding skills as a percussionist on "Teental Song" written in a cycle of 16 beats in the Indian system of music, followed by "Chakradar # 4," a continuation in the rhythmic cycle. Remarkably, bassist Thomas Morgan and pianist Jacob Sacks