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Deborah Weisz: Grace (for Will)

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Deborah Weisz dedicates "Grace," which opens her album of the same name, to her brother Will, marking her struggle back into composition after his untimely death silenced her for a while. From dissociated flutterings of all the instruments, including harmonica, comes the big, blurry trombone sound of the leader with minimal accompaniment. Andrew Sterman's hard-toned neo-Coltrane tenor solos untamed and there's a rock-style solo from Sheryl Bailey, who can do much more. The following piece, Weisz's "Zoneing," inspired by George Garzone, does suggest an access to theological grace. Nicki Parrott is some bassist—hear her before the trombone-guitar duet, and hear the detail of the arrangement accompanying the drum feature.

"Pablo's Crib," composed by Sterman, has a simple, dancing post bop theme like a Sonny Rollins blues, with Weisz soloing in a more subdued style nearer J.J. Johnson; the bassist and guitarist are inventive in support, starting to have fun. Olivier Ker Ourio's chromatic harmonica returns for "The Crossing," first in an arrangement of impressive texture, then ringing strongly in solo, without the homespun touch usually expected from the instrument. We're already a long way from the opener. Besides "Body and Soul," Jim McNeely's "Touch" is the sole non-original composition, enhancing a programme of exceptional variety.

I'll surely come back to several things here, like Sheryl Bailey's "Underdog's Anonymous" [sic]. The trombone proceeds in a deliciously dry-toned manner before opening out, pealing amid a dancing swing. "Dr. Ken" is another example of the band's favoured procedure of finding coherence after fragmentary beginnings: initial noodlings fall together into a riffing theme and a trombone solo of remarkable architectonic shape. "Body and Soul," harmonica back in again, lets each player improvise on the melody around a tonal centre, with no bar lines and a keen pulse that's not extended too long.

On Ourio's "Bellydancing" I can't hear who does what. With still more grace, the opening track's conflicts resolve creatively: trombone in velvet and plungered; Sterman's flute and the harmonica combining magically; guitarist and bassist producing a drone in one place, a chime in another. This recording is worth hearing for just these two pieces! But there's more here, and Weisz's late trombone mentor, Carl Fontana, a lovely man, would have been proud.

Track Listing: Grace (For Will); Zoneing; The Crossing; New Light; Touch; Underdog's Anonymous; Dr. Ken; Body and Soul; Bellydancing.

Personnel: Deborah Weisz: trombone, composer, arranger; Andrew Sterman: tenor saxophone and flute; Sheryl Bailey: guitar; Nicki Parrott: upright bass; Eric Halvorson: drums.

Title: Grace (for Will) | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Va Wah

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