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David Weiss: In Celebration of Endangered Species

Fiona Ord-Shrimpton By

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Theoretically I don’t think he (Wayne Shorter) would like this sort of project and philosophically, it's just not where I think he's coming from. —David Weiss
David Weiss and his mini big band of jazz chameleons are a ready example of how to concentrate at OCD levels to perfect musical things of beauty that stand the test of time, repeatedly. Many have focused a hell of a lot more than 10,000 hours to cultivate this sound, and some have overcome myriad adversities to present it. Playing the music of Wayne Shorter, in any way other than that of Wayne Shorter might burn a few eyebrows in the tradition—this band knows what it means to be trailblazers and these arrangements are for BIG sounds to highlight Shorter's music in the 21st century, all in the best possible taste.

Weiss stated in his press release, "I consider Wayne to be one of the most important composers in the history of this music and arguably the greatest living composer we have today in jazz. I also thought a composer of such breadth and scope should have an ensemble devoted to re-examining, expounding and expanding his music."

Endangered Species is a brass bold statement of presence, clearly cut and refined expression with the urgency you'd expect to hear from a sense of extinction. It packs a delicious punch.

I recently had the honor of speaking to David Weiss. For me a potentially daunting, cold-start first interview for All About Jazz was made inviting and warm by a free speaking Weiss, here is what he had to say.

All About Jazz: It's been a couple of years since you had an interview on All About Jazz, what's been happening to lead to this latest release?

David Weiss: I've been leading this band since around 2004-2005 with no plans to record it. It's an ambitious project that started with six or seven charts, many of the players (David Weiss: conductor & trumpet; Tim Green: alto sax; Marcus Strickland: tenor & soprano sax; Ravi Coltrane: tenor sax; Norbert Stachel: baritone sax & bass clarinet; Diego Urcola & Jeremy Pelt: trumpet; Joe Fiedler & Steve Davis: trombone; Geri Allen: piano; Dwayne Burno: bass, E.J. Strickland: drums.) have been in my other bands, the sextet and octet, so they've been through the wars with me.

A number of things led to this release. Wayne Shorter had a concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center and they thought it would be nice to complement Wayne's appearance in their concert hall with some sort of band doing his music in the club Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. They were aware of my project and fortunately, they wanted me to bring it into the club in conjunction with Wayne's appearance in the concert hall. Sirius/XM radio always does a live broadcast from the club and records the band and if you like it, they will make the recording available to you if you care to mix it and release it. Motema Music, the label I record for, had already released a few CD's recorded live from Dizzy's so they were aware of the process and was willing to give this project a shot. We both thought it would be nice to pay tribute to this important composer and release something in conjunction with his 80th Birthday.

AAJ: Playing devil's advocate—people are still rushing off to find hit makers from Israel and Cuba, and that's cool so how do you match that pool?

DW: Jazz certainly reaches out to all corners of the world and we have musicians from all over the world endeavoring to play this great music now. I think that is a beautiful thing and as a result, a lot of great music with a lot of different perspectives is being heard. What frustrates me a bit is that this has become an overwhelming marketing tool and now it seems to get any attention out here, your music has to encompass all these worldly influences or it's not considered "of the moment." I know we live in an era where everything is about publicity and marketing and to get attention, you need a "story" or some sort of narrative to get attention and one of the easiest ways these days is to be from somewhere else and have your music infused with the music of your homeland or do music that has a worldly tinge to it.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with the music itself. I just think music needs to be judged on it's own merits. Everything is about context and not content, and in that world the music suffers. Everything needs to be judged on its own merits and if it is excellent music, it's excellent music. It's as simple as that. The coverage of this music needs to be all encompassing I think. In the end, it's about the music, not where the musicians are from or what the "concept" of the recording is, just whether the music is fresh, vital and exciting and oh yeah, really good.

How do I match that? I'm still going to do what I do and do it the best I can. Looking at the scene, well the industry I guess, is just taking notice of the world I live in. It doesn't effect how I approach my music. I'm still going to just keep plugging away doing what I do.


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