From its reverent yet fun-loving title cut, Grace (for Will) is a delight. Trombonist Deborah Weisz has assembled a wonderfully eclectic, intermeshing group of musicians to interpret newly composed music motivated by significant events and people in her life. Along with her communicative t-bone, two of New York City's most expressive and versatile musicians, guitarist Sheryl Bailey and bassist Nicki Parrott, aid in delivering a varied program of creative music that swings, bops, and stretches boundaries in intriguing ways.
Front and center with Weisz is the equally telling tenor of Andrew Sterman. He aptly summons the spirituality of Trane to begin "Grace, a piece inspired by the tragic death of the trombonist's brother. Sterman then changes moods as Parrot's pumping bass bops through a jumping middle before Bailey's striking guitar communes with Mahavishnu to take things in a different direction. Guest Olivier Ker Ourio is featured on multiple tunes, and his chromatic harmonica adds a unique sound to the quintet.
Weisz is able to use her instrument to its full capability and blends excedingly well with Sterman on cuts like "Zoneing, an up-tempo tribute to Boston tenor great George Garzone. The journey from Norway to America through Ellis Island taken by Weisz's grandfather is portrayed as a mysterious adventure of discovery courtesy of a heartfelt bass solo by Parrott and delicate harmonica and guitar phrasing. "New Light becomes a vehicle for Weisz to showcase her expert wah-wah technique while t-bone mouthpiecing begins the quirky "Dr. Ken that quickly turns into a hot bopper. Drummer Eric Halvorson is able to hold this varied group together through crisp rhythms that are never boring nor stifling and allow the musicians to chart new directions.
Contributions from other band members include Bailey's super swinging "Underdog's Anonymous, featuring her unmistakably rich tone; Sterman's bluesy paean to Picasso's residence, "Pablo's Crib ; and the beautifully melodic Ourio tune "Bellydancing that has Sterman doubling on flute.
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