An in-demand veteran of the vibrant New York jazz scene since the '80s, pianist Michael Weiss
presents the warm and engaging Persistence
, his fifth as a leader and first on the Cellar Live label, as well as being his first since the critically acclaimed Soul Journey
, (Sintra Records, 2003). The long time span between recordings, despite many other opportunities since then, was primarily due to the artistic and creative terms not being ideal enough until the Cellar Live proposal. One big draw for this project was the fact the album was taped at the famous Rudy Van Gelder
studios in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey where his debut album, Presenting Michael Weiss
(Criss Cross, 1987) was documented.
Working in the talent-rich environment of New York City, affords one the opportunity to draw upon that ready-made pool of players and establish a formidable jazz band as Weiss does here. Ably supported by tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander
and the bass-and-drum duo of Paul Gill
and Peter Van Nostrand
, provides the pianist a certain assurance that the final product will be more than appealingit certainly is.
On tap here is a blend of four originals and four standards from the likes of Jimmy Van Heusen, Fats Waller
, Thelonious Monk
and Antonio Carlos Jobim
. If there's one track that illuminates and captures the spirit of this recording it is "Apres Vous," where the pianist's 16-bar improvisational piano vamp combine with swinging Latin rhythms and Alexander's marvelous solo outburst, sets the stage for what's on tap.
The title track and "Second Thoughts" open up the music in mid-tempo form highlighting the cohesiveness of this quartet on a couple of traditional contemporary charts. Van Heusen's oft-recorded standard "Only the Lonely" is one of the softer moments of the session where Weiss's delicate touch on the keys and Nostrand's warm brush strokes combine for an absolutely beautiful rendition of this ballad.
Waller's feisty "Jitterbug Waltz" turns the music in the direction of perky, up-tempo swing. Monk's "Epistrophy" continues the mood before the band engages the gentler side again on Jobim's classic "Once I Loved." The quartet brings down the curtains with "Birthday Blues," a steamy blues original that, in addition to featuring the leader's sizzling solos, also showcases excellent bass lines from Gill and some power play from the saxophonist to close out the album in dynamic fashion.
For whatever reason pianist Michael Weiss has chosen not to record as a leader as often as he could have in his distinguished 40-year career, Persistence
is testament to how intriguing, exciting and vibrant his music is. Perhaps a persistent call for more, may entice this pianist to grace us with another release in the near future.
Persistence; Second Thoughts; Apres Vous; Only the Lonely; Jitterbug Waltz; Epistrophy; Once I Loved; Birthday Blues.
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