Everything's Coming Up Weeds,
the 50th release from the Cellar Live stable, is a stellar recording featuring an extraordinary quintet. At first blush, it recalls the energy and fervor of wonderful Benny Golson
bands and, if the memory can be stretched a wee bit further, also some memorable sessions of Jazztet
or even a Jazz Messengers middle passage. The date is led by the big tenor sound of Cory Weedssaxophonist, broadcaster, jazz impresario extraordinaire and owner of Canada's leading West Coast nightspot, The Cellar Restaurant and Jazz Club. There is also excellent work from pianist Ross Taggart, trumpeter Jim Rotundi, bassist John Webber and drummer Willie Jones III.
There are several remarkable aspects to this record. First, the writing of the originals is of the very highest order. The music is wonderfully crafted with an extraordinary ear for tonal colors and rhythmic textures, whether it is a blues such as Taggart's "BB's Blue Blues," which appears to be an oblique tribute to Thelonious Monk
, or an exotic narrative from Rotundi, "Biru Kirusai," which is almost a title in Bunga Emas (the language of Malaysia) and conjures up images of the sights and smells of exquisite Southeast Asia. The highlight, of course, is Weed's writing, which is mature and exquisitely crafted, with a fine sense of the sonority and sliding elegance of the tenor saxophone. On his "Little Known One," Weeds paints sonic images of Dexter Gordon
. And like Gordon, Weeds is able to bend his fat sound to practically cry at the most tender moments of the song.
On Frank Loesser's "I've Never Been in Love Before," Cory Weeds establishes his mastery over the ballad, digging deep into his horn an extracting a genuine, glowing warmth that few tenor saxophonists today have been able to summon, even in balladry. Weeds also exhibits remarkable command of the bebop rhythm with his "Bailin' On You" and "323 Shuter." His chart, "The Pour," sounds like a classic tune from a Jazz Messengers songbook. But make no mistake, this is all Cory Weeds.
This is, in fact, the second remarkable aspect of this record. It is bursting with ideas and superb expression. Few small ensembles playing today complement each other with sensitivity to each other's sound. It is like an Duke Ellington
band, where each of the players, like alchemists, forge tones that meld into one another. The interplay is almost seamless, with Taggart's "Cyclaman" and Weeds' "The Pour" bringing that molten sound of the quintet to sublime fruition.
This is also a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek title: Everything's Coming Up Weeds
. If anything, there is jazz in full bloom here, end-to-end.