The story behind pianist Jon Weber's Simple Complex stretches credulity, but the music speaks for itself. From the age of three or so, Weber has been an instrumental and compositional wunderkind. A real life Schroeder practicing on a toy organ, he possessed absolute pitch and a phenomenal song memory. Learning piano from his grandmother's collection of piano rolls, he began feverishly composing until his early 20s and then became enraptured with pianists Art Tatum and Dave McKenna. Two decades later he rediscovered his early compositions, and they serve as the foundation for this latest offering.
Simple, however, this is not, and Weber has mixed and matched some of the world's best musicians to present and interpret his work. Many of these pieces have odd time signatures and employ Latin rhythms with the occasional Indian/Eastern influence. The liner notes detail the musical language and one can chew on the fact that the title cut is a 7/4 time rendering of the chord progression from Trane's "Giant Steps played in all twelve keys with several reformulations of the seven basic South Indian tabla pulses. Heady stuff, but the overall feel is one of tightly woven music, professionally played with power and precision. Weber can dazzle and Eric Alexander's fine full vocal tenor, along with Gary Burton's vibes and Diego Urcola's trumpet, add wonderfully supple touches to keep things from becoming too academic.
"Is it Only Me quickly moves from a little big band sound with vocalese master Kurt Elling and an earthy Alexander tenor solo through an Eastern movement complete with sitar, tabla, and tambura, and back again. This is all supported by drummers Mark Walker and Jonas Johansen, who are given plenty of room to impress, and a bevy of bassists that includes Avishai Cohen, the late Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Peter Washington, Matt Clohesy, and John Ovnik. There are soft moments such as "No More Words, a pensive piano duet with flugelhornist Roy Hargrove; "Jolie, with its pretty Burton vibes and John Moulder guitar interplay over a breezy Brazilian beat; and the classically-inspired "While She's Dreaming, which features oboist Paul McCandless; but mostly this is broad, quick-paced music that uplifts with a bursting rhythmic intensity.
1. Hot Ice 2. No More Words 3. Drastic Steps 4. Mister Kleckley 5. Simple Complex 6. While She's Dreaming 7. Is It Only Me? 8. Jolie 9. Whatever You Say 10. Triska Deka
Jon Weber, piano; Eric Alexander, Sax (Tenor); Ruben P. Alvarez, Timbales; Gary Burton, Vibraphone; Matt Clohesy, Bass; Avishai Cohen, Bass; Kurt Elling, Vocals; Roy Hargrove, Flugelhorn; Jonas Johansen, Percussion, Drums, Pandeiro; Paul McCandless, Oboe; John Moulder, Guitar; John Ovnik, Bass, Sitar; Kalyan Pathak, Tabla, Niels-Henning
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