Recorded over two nights in Portland's Ivories Jazz Lounge during late-2013, Before You Know It [Live In Portland]
is pianist and composer Ezra Weiss' seventh album and his first live recording.
Weiss' previous releases have featured big bands (Our Path To This Moment
[Roark Records, 2012]) and trios (The Shirley Horn Suite
[Roark Records, 2011]). However, it's the sextet format that has featured most strongly on Weiss' recordings and it's this line-up that returns for Before You Know It [Live In Portland]
The set starts on a high with "Winter Machine" and the band keeps the energy level high throughout the album's 70-plus minutes. Up-tempo numbers are delivered with verve, bassist Jon Shaw
and drummer Christopher Brown
crafting a swinging yet solid foundation. "The Crusher" features a powerful performance from trumpeter Farnell Newton
as well as a killer melody.
The slow funk of "Don't Need No Ticket" shows that the sextet can maintain its intensity on calmer, more reflective, tunes: all the solos are beautifully structured and played with due regard to the mood of the composition. On "Jessie's Song"written for his wifethe band's sound is full and rich, suggestive of a much larger line up than the mere six musicians who actually perform. It's an ambitious and lovely piece, realized with great style.
In its original formon Weiss' debut album 5 A. M. Strut
(Umoja, 2003)"The Five A. M. Strut" came in at around four minutes. The live version gets stretched out to 15 minutes plus. The extension might have worked in the club, but on record it's rather over-stretched despite some fiery playing from the horns and Brown's lively drums. John Coltrane
's "Alabama" follows, another lengthy tune but this time there isn't a second wasted: Coltrane's tune is dramatic, the band's engagement with it is obvious and Devin Phillips
' throaty tenor sax grabs the attention from the off and holds it until the final bar. Before You Know It [Live In Portland]
captures the excitement and intensity of a club gig and showcases not only the instrumentalists' talents but also Weiss' skill as a composer and leader. The soulful "Before You Know It" closes the album, with Weiss appropriately taking the spotlight with his piano introduction before another fine array of solos from the sextet.
Winter Machine; The Crusher; Don't Need No Ticket; A Foggy Day; Jessie's Song; The Five A. M. Strut; Alabama; EZ Introduces The Band; Before You Know It.
Ezra Weiss: piano; Farnell Newton: trumpet; John Nastos: alto saxophone; Devin Phillips: tenor saxophone; Jon Shaw: bass; Christopher Brown: drums.