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Noam Wiesenberg: Roads Diverge

Geno Thackara By

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A title such as Roads Diverge probably isn't surprising from someone as well-traveled as Noam Wiesenberg. The sound largely sticks to one category—mostly-acoustic contemporary jazz with a high dose of rollicking cheer—and yet still reflects how much the young bassist has learned from his travels through life so far. The confident smoothness, eclectic writing-style and casting of excellent session-mates all show the lessons of his first decade as a working player, which subtly inform this debut as a leader.

The idea of choices is the central theme here, specifically Wiesenberg's belief that the act of making a choice is more crucial than what is actually chosen. When the crew kicks into the frenetic licks of the introductory "Resfeber" (the title taken from a Swedish word for pre-journey excitement) and soon cranks it up to a corking wail, their go-for-it heartiness embodies the idea perfectly. Likewise, "Where Do We Go from Here" is designed to give the players an array of options while mainly staying within three chords, and everyone ends up pretty much taking them all by the time their playfully bonkers scrambling is over.

The leader's arranging skills generally keep the piano and dual horns weaving around each other without crowding. Philip Dizack and Immanuel Wilkins can play leapfrog with overlapping licks; Shai Maestro often bangs away with crazy McCoy Tyner-style block chords in between, and it still comes out as a wild balancing-act that almost never actually tips into chaos. Wiesenberg's natural understatement as a bassist helps, as does the ensemble's collective instinct for knowing when to take turns holding back.

All pieces but one are Wiesenberg's own, and his way with melody is as fun as his knack for clever arrangements—a key lesson learned from the likes of Wayne Shorter, whose influence is cited on the simple yet tenderly evocative title track. The lovely "Capricorn Lady" (a song for his wife) even sounds just like a title Shorter might have used, also sharing the easygoing panache of those once-upon-a-time Blue Note sessions in its own way. A couple of other pieces are also dedicated to loved ones and pack a similar emotional flair. It all adds up to a very colorful debut full of promise and heart. Whatever roads Noam Wiesenberg chooses in the future, we should have great pleasure in hearing him tell all about them.

Track Listing: Prelude; Resfeber; Shir Le'Shir; Where Do We Go from Here; Roads Diverge; Capricorn Lady; Davka; Melody for Ido; The Tourist.

Personnel: Noam Wiesenberg: bass; Philip Dizack: trumpet; Shai Maestro: piano, Fender Rhodes; Dayna Stephens: tenor sax (5), Immanuel Wilkins: alto sax & clarinet; Kush Abadey: drums.

Title: Roads Diverge | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records

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