296

New Jazz Composers Octet: The Turning Gate

J Hunter By

Sign in to view read count
Good support players can add color and depth to the vision of almost any artist; the right supporting cast can help a leader move in innumerable creative directions—witness the many phases of Dave Douglas. But what if a support player has a vision to share with the world? That was trumpeter David Weiss' motivation for founding the New Jazz Composer's Octet in 1999. The Turning Gate should make liner note readers—and, hopefully, everybody else—sit up and take notice.

Although NJCO members have recorded under their own names, primary fame for the current lineup comes from a lengthy list of acclaimed backup gigs. Ironically, the Octet has also loaned itself out as a unit, backstopping trumpet icon Freddie Hubbard's On the Real Side (Time Square, 2008). But The Turning Gate is strictly an NJCO affair, both in sound and vision. Not only is there an extended taste of the creative juices that fuel the Octet, but the material is displayed on a wide-open canvas, showcasing the group's vast range of shades and textures.

Drummer Nasheet Waits literally plays like clockwork as the front line introduces the title track's complex melody. The charts are as tight as a drum as reedmen Myron Walden, Jimmy Greene and Norbert Stachel build percussive harmonies over Weiss' trumpet and Steve Davis' trombone. Pianist Xavier Davis' comping morphs into a burning counter as Walden flies ever upward, a tortured voice demanding someone listen to his sad story. Drawn into this maelstrom of light and heat, the front line suddenly drops out and Xavier's piano is left seriously swinging, bolstered by Waits and bassist Dwayne Burno. The NJCO are masters of the lightning-fast scene change, and the effect is always energizing, never diffusing.

Of the many intriguing ideas brought to the table, the biggest one—both literally and figuratively—is Davis' "The Faith Suite," a six-part meditation on the many aspects and influences of belief. Despite the beautiful chorale that introduces "Twilight," the work is overwhelmingly secular, owing more to Duke Ellington's suites than Dave Brubeck's "Mass." Even so, the inspiration for each comes through loud and clear, from the calm at the center of the storm in "Panic" to the arrogant swagger of the youths in "New (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego)."

"Bad Alchemy," a schizophrenic work from '70s Rock in Opposition group Henry Cow, really soars when—in Weiss' words—"Myron goes to Myronland." NJCO offers many earthly delights, but Walden's reed work is truly a taste treat. Even so, his greatest contribution comes from his pen with "Onward," a musical metaphor for the Octet. Its spirit is positive and upright, moving effortlessly forward as the dialogue shows this group has much more to say. Weiss didn't just do his buddies a solid when he founded NJCO, he gave jazz fans a place to hear new ideas that might otherwise have done nothing but sit in the background. And like the New Jazz Composer's Octet, The Turning Gate deserves to be out front.


Track Listing: The Turning Gate; New; David and Goliath; Once; Bad Alchemy; The Faith Suite (I; In the Beginning; II; Twilight; III; The Doubtful; IV; Panic); Onward.

Personnel: David Weiss; trumpet; Xavier Davis; piano; Myron Walden; alto saxophone; Dwayne Burno; bass; Steve Davis; trombone; Jimmy Greene; tenor and soprano saxophone; Nasheet Waits; drums; Norbert Stachel; baritone sax.

Title: The Turning Gate | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Motema Music


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Yequm CD/LP/Track Review Yequm
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 24, 2017
Read Schlitten CD/LP/Track Review Schlitten
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 24, 2017
Read The Willisau Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Willisau Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: October 24, 2017
Read Together Apart CD/LP/Track Review Together Apart
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 24, 2017
Read Whispers on the Wind CD/LP/Track Review Whispers on the Wind
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 23, 2017
Read Shropshire Lads: Songs to the Poems of AE Housman CD/LP/Track Review Shropshire Lads: Songs to the Poems of AE Housman
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 23, 2017
Read "Closer To The Sun" CD/LP/Track Review Closer To The Sun
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: January 9, 2017
Read "Daylight Ghosts" CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "Retrorespective" CD/LP/Track Review Retrorespective
by Phillip Woolever
Published: June 15, 2017
Read "Tilt" CD/LP/Track Review Tilt
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 18, 2017
Read "Vars & Kaper:Deconstruction" CD/LP/Track Review Vars & Kaper:Deconstruction
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 29, 2016
Read "avantNOIR" CD/LP/Track Review avantNOIR
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 21, 2017

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY IT!  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.