A Fireside Chat With David Weiss

AAJ Staff By

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He [Freddie Hubbard] is still an amazing player, even diminished, the lines still come out. His harmonic conception is almost unlike any other trumpet player. —David Weiss
David Weiss is one of the founding members of the New Jazz Composers Octet. Three years and counting, the NJCO is one of the hippest things going in the Big Apple these days. Including a saxophonist who is el fuego, Marcus Strickland, Elvin alumnus, Xavier Davis at the piano, Roy Haynes and sometimes Dave Douglas bassist, Dwayne Burno, oh and Myron Walden on alto, Nasheet (I am part of the best piano trio in the land) Waits, and Weiss on trumpet (and he plays a mean trumpet), the Octet has record two session for the Fresh Sound label. And if that weren't enough to bow down and chant, 'We're not worthy,' Weiss also is credited by the legend, the man, the myth, Freddie Hubbard, for bringing the ex-Blue Note trumpeter out of a self-imposed retirement of sorts. So Weiss wears many hats, but wears them well. Ladies and gents and children of all ages, David Weiss, unedited and in his own words.

All About Jazz: Let's start from the beginning.

David Weiss: In high school, where I was growing up, I grew up in kind of a rock and roll area, I guess, and I was listening to Aerosmith and Kiss and stuff like that. I just played piano because I had to and I played trumpet in the band, but I never heard music that trumpet applied to. I actually went to school for photography first and then I started hearing some jazz music and just liked what I heard and heard something that actually applied to trumpet and then I started playing trumpet again and went from there. So it was kind of a long route, but I was a kid. I was like twelve and wanted to play football and basketball and wanted to stop playing. My family wanted me to play something and I wanted to play bass or drums, but all that was nixed, so I chose trumpet. I started playing trumpet and took private lessons and was playing in the band in the orchestra at school. I was playing it everyday, but I wasn't hearing any music that applied to it. By the time I was thirteen and fourteen, it was all Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra and stuff like that. Again, I was hearing stuff for keyboards. I had a little synthesizer and I played it in the basement and stuff and then I got accepted into art school and there were horn players there and they started turning me onto different jazz stuff. It was mostly free jazz like Cecil Taylor and Henry Threadgill, Air, I guess it was then. Then I started hearing music that I hadn't been exposed to before. It was kind of evolution. I started hearing some Miles Davis and Eddie Henderson was making some fusion records back then that were really hip and that's the first time I heard trumpet applied to anything. Then I got a wah-wah pedal for my trumpet and started playing that in a fusion band too.

FJ: Forward thinking.

DW: I'm from New York. I'm from Queens. The high school I went to, everybody had leather jackets and Aerosmith shirts. I always had a great curiosity and love for whatever I was listening to, even Aerosmith. After the fusion stuff, I started looking at more European bands too. There was a lot of European fusion bands that had more jazz influences or classical stuff. I remember taking the train into the city and buying black light posters and going to the Village and looking in all the stores and stuff like that from when I was like twelve. Even film, I'm a film buff and until I went to art school and started seeing all the art films and foreign films, I didn't know. It was strange how it happened, but certainly whatever I was getting into, I still remember going into this one store in the Village that had old records for $3.50 or $4.00 or something like that and buying Billy Cobham records. I just bought the same one again. Some of that stuff is pretty hip. I go back and see what my taste was really like. Was I just like a na've kid or did I like something that was pretty decent?

FJ: How was the work?

DW: I went to North Texas State and then I moved back to New York and with that background, I didn't know any jazz people when I moved back to New York except those I met coming through Texas when I was in school. But I knew New York and I knew how to live so some things were comfortable. The one thing that I remember is I didn't realize how diverse I would get. I move to New York and I study hard and I would get hired by Horace Silver. Within one year of playing here, I had played in every type of Latin band, rock band, top forty band, wedding band, any kind of world music type of thing, Haitian bands, and so it was diverse stuff, but I had no idea I was going to get into that. Within a year, I was playing in all these bands, but I was making a living at least. Some of those bands were actually kind of fun.

FJ: Let's touch on Breathing Room (Fresh Sound).


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