The third release by New York-based pianist/composer Ezra Weiss is a sophisticated and optimistic conceptual statement about the search for happiness through original composition, clever references, intimate and nuanced playing, and updating the Great American Songbook with fresh arrangements. Weiss is joined by fellow alumni from the Oberlin Conservatory and Queens Collegebassist Corcoran Holt and drummer Jason Brownas well as esteemed teachers, including master drummer Billy Hart (who taught Weiss at Oberlin) and alto saxophonistAntonio Hart (who taught Weiss at Queens).
Weiss opens the original "For Heather," a beautiful instrumental arrangement for tenor sax and Andy Hunter's beautifully expressive trombone. Weiss borrows the introduction to the standard "Once Upon a Time" from Bill Evans's "Peace Piece," before Austrian singer Heidi Krenn's hushed and clear performance contrasts the opinionated playing of Weiss, Holt and Brown. The Brazilian-tinged arrangement of "It's You or No One" features an assured tenor solo by Kelly Roberge. Antonio Hart shines with emotional charged playing that does not succumb to sentimentalism throughout Weiss' heartbreak ballad, "What I Can Never Say."
Weiss thoughtfully re-harmonizes the more optimistic standard "Blue Room," aided by Billy Hart's inventive drumming and Samantha Grabler's straight-ahead singing. Weiss turns the popular standard "Get Happy" upside down; a short but brilliant solo piano performance that jumps between genres and styles. He wisely bases the introduction to Rodgers and Hammerstein's "You'll Never Walk Alone" on Carla Bley's "Ida Lupino," enabling Holt to build a well-articulate solo. This new arrangement refreshes a popular standard that has become, over the years, a worn-out anthem for football clubs all around the world (e.g. Pink Floyd's tribute to the English Liverpool football club on "Fearless," from Meddle (Harvest, 1971)).
The Gershwins' "He Loves and She Loves" is interpreted as a song about stressed relationship and frustrated, unrequited love. Weiss switches to Fender Rhodes on his original "Run Under the Foundation," a funky, tight tune that features Turkish-born singer Elif Caglar's soulful scatting and another impressive tenor showcase by Roberge. Weiss close this enjoyable release with another gospel/funk tune, "Don't Need No Ticket," that borrows its title from Curtis Mayfield, with close interplay between trumpeter Kevin Louis and Andrae Murchison.
For Heather; Once Upon A Time; It's You Or No One; What I Can Never Say; Blue Room; Get Happy, You'll Never Walk Alone; He Loves and She Loves; Run Under the Fountain; Don't Need No Ticket.