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Alex Weiss: Fighter Planes & Praying Mantis

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Saxophonist Alex Ward's musical journey so far reflects his restful musical personality. He studied music in Boston, then relocated to San Francisco where he studied with Roberto DeHaven, the minister and musician of Saint John's Orthodox Church, better known as the John Coltrane Church. In the Bay Area he collaborated with innovative improvisers as saxophonist Glenn Spearman, Wadada Leo Smith, and Bertram Turetzky. Then he continued to Denmark where he performed with John Tchicai and later moved to Madrid, Spain. He stayed there four years before moving back to the Bay area and in 2007 he landed in New York, his current base.

This long and winding road turned Weiss into a highly versatile musician whose diverse musical tastes cover country, Brazilian, and funk music and even reaches post punk bands as Black Flag. All efforts are is integrated into Fighter Planes & Praying Mantis and with the powerful and aggressive band that features drummer Ches Smith, guitarist Eyal Maoz, and trombonist Rick Parker, both collaborating in the 9Volt band.

The power of this band is layered first with the driving massive pulse of Smith, assisted by bassist Dmitry Ishenko, then strengthened with the heavy, distorted sound of Maoz' electric guitar and on top of this heavy mix of sounds are the urgent, manic blows of Weiss and Parker, all orchestrated in a tight, thick interplay. Weiss adds the role of vocalist as he screams at the end of Black Flag's "Your Last Affront" Martin Luther King Jr's words: "a riot is the language of the unheard." But he can also function as a lyrical player, even with a gentle, contemplative bluesy tone as on "$ Mrdan" or injecting nervous tension on the title piece, contrasting the chaotic , metallic walls of noise of Maoz and Smith. He varies the aggressive mayhem with Mark Hodos exotic birimbau beat on "Control Avalanche."

"Glaciers/Into Beautiful" and the following, Roy Budd's "Get Carter Theme," demonstrate Weiss' band as sketching a more conventional musical narrative, with dramatic shifts and hypnotic rhythms that set the basis for its cinematic atmosphere. Weiss' solo acoustic guitar cover of Hank Williams Jr's "Angel of Death" even adds a sobering, spiritual theme to this wild, uncompromising ride.

Track Listing: Whale; Your Last Affront; $ Mrdan; filler; Control Avalanche; GlacierS/Into wonderful; Get Carter Theme; Fighter Planes & Praying Mantis; Angel of Death.

Personnel: Alex Weiss: ttenor & baritone saxophones; Rick Parker: trombone; Eyal Maoz: guitar ; Dmitry Ishenko: electric bass, double bass; Ches Smith: drums; Mark Hodos: birimbau.

Title: Fighter Planes & Praying Mantis | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: OutNow Recordings

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