Dan Weiss began his professional drumming career touring with the likes of saxophonists David Binney, Lee Konitz, Rudresh Mahantthapa, among others. Weiss has also been studying tabla with Pandit Samir Chatterjee for two decades and has been named a top drummer in a number of prominent polls. Sixteen: Drummers Suite bears more than a passing resemblance to Weiss' Fourteen (Pi Recordings, 2014) at least in terms of the music's development and the cohort of musicians.
Weiss' inspiration for Sixteen: Drummers Suite is not confined to the legendary drummers whose specific contributions within larger works serve as jumping-off points for these through-composed pieces. Weiss studied the work of Iannis Xenakis, a Romanian-born architect and composer who often used mathematical models in composing. His final composition, in 1997, was written for percussion soloist and chamber orchestra. Another inspiration is Danish composer Per Nørgård, whose noteworthy composition "I Ching" (1982) was written for solo percussion.
Weiss opens with a brief solo, "The Drummers Meet," flowing directly into "Elvin" and touching off complex rhythms and unexpected deviations. The Elvin Jones inspired piece is the first of several, almost psychedelic saturations of buzzing electronics, wordless vocals and ensemble playing woven together by this master percussionist. "Max" (referencing Max Roach, of course) adds a spoken word loop in staccato, rap mode. One of the most classic references is "Tony," as in Tony Williams, and derived from the drummer's performance on Miles Davis's "Nefertiti." Opening with a warm solo from bassist Thomas Morgan and then joined by pianist and keyboardist Jacob Sacks and Matt Mitchell, respectively, the vocalists and larger ensemble take the piece on an uninhibited ride. Sacks closes the tune with a hymn-like piano solo.
Remaining compositions are based on very brief, particular phrases from Philly Joe Jones, Kenny Clarke and Ed Blackwell. The Blackwell piece is the most reflective and direct on the album, opening with moody sax but moving through a wide range of changes over its fifteen-plus minute length. It closes with Miles Okazaki's pensive guitar and the distant pulse of Weiss. Much of the satisfaction in listening to Sixteen: Drummers Suite lies in the levels that reveal themselves over repeated listening. Despite the intricacies that Weiss revels in, there are coherent qualities throughout the music. The compositions are both powerful and fantastical and the sixteen musicians persistently take advantage of the potential in these unique creations.
The Drummers Meet; Elvin; Max; Tony; Philly Joe; Klook; Ed.
Dan Weiss: compositions, drums, tabla, vocal percussion; Thomas Morgan: acoustic bass; Jacob Sacks: piano; Matt Mitchell: keyboard, piano, glockenspiel, organ, vibraphone; Miles Okazaki: guitars, vocal percussion; Stephen Cellucci: percussion, vocal percussion; Katie Andrews: harp; Anna Webber: flute, alto flute; David Binney: alto saxophone; Miguel Zenon: alto saxophone; Ohad Talmor: tenor saxophone; Jacob Garchik: trombone, tuba; Ben Gerstein: trombone; Judith Berkson: voice; Lana Is: voice; Jen Shyu: voice.