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Album Review

Ezra Weiss Big Band: We Limit Not The Truth of God

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Ezra Weiss Big Band: We Limit Not The Truth of God
Composer / arranger Ezra Weiss's debut big-band recording, We Limit Not the Truth of God, is actually a suite written for his two young children to help them understand and embrace the often confusing and chaotic world in which we live. It is thus entirely appropriate that the album was recorded (with an audience) in a church, Portland (OR)'s historic Alberta Abbey. What is not quite clear is the referent "we" in the album's presumptuous title. Is that "we" as in "everyone"? If so, more than a few designees who are included in such an unconfined citation may not agree, as many people do not subscribe to the concept of a God, let alone not limiting His truth. But perhaps by "we" Weiss meant himself, his family, friends and orchestra. That would at least place the term in a more equitable framework.

Be that as it may, what is most important in an appraisal such as this is the music itself, almost all of which was written and arranged by Weiss. The concert numbers eleven selections, four of which are spoken messages to his children by the composer. While they may be enlightening, at times even profound, they clearly are not jazz. The instrumental tracks that follow each narrative are based loosely on its premise, a way of expressing musically the sentiments embodied in Weiss's verbal counsel. The fourth of those recitals, which paints a rather drab and remorseless picture of today's landscape in America, precedes the album's more enheartening title song, excerpted from an 1853 psalm by George Rawson and sung a cappella by the seventeen-member Camas High School choir with further narration by Weiss.

The half-dozen instrumentals begin with the powerful "Fanfare for a Newborn" whose chorale-like opening segues into a full-throated samba featuring Farnell Newton's expressive trumpet. The heavy-duty "Blues and the Alternative Fact" makes good use of drummer Alan Jones's nimble brush work to enhance glossy solos by baritone Mieke Bruggeman and trombonist Stan Bock, while "Joe's Drawing" shows Weiss's fluency with a ballad and tenor Renato Caranto's singular ability to take a lovely theme and make it even more alluring. Pianist Jasnam Daya Singh introduces the bracing, brass-centered "Obergefell" (sharp solos by alto Jim Nastos and trumpeter Thomas Barber) and more pensive "Please Know That I Love You" {Jeff Uusitalo, trombone; Rob Davis, soprano sax), which lead to the animated finale, Wayne Shorter's classic "Footprints" (arranged by Weiss), whose familiar theme paves the way for enterprising solos by Nastos on soprano and trumpeter Derek Sims leading to a dynamic coda.

As a sermon interlaced with jazz, We Limit Not the Truth of God works quite well. As a jazz album with digressions, no matter how sincere, which is how it must be weighed, the outcome is inescapably more uneven. High marks for Weiss's intrepid compositions and arrangements, and for the band and soloists; the sum and substance of what the treatise conveys and its import must be left to listeners' discretion.

Track Listing

Fanfare for a Newborn; Dear O. and J.; Blues and the Alternative Fact; You Just Started Kindergarten; Jose's Drawing; I Don't Mean to Be a Downer; Obergefell; What Now; We Limit Not the Truth of God; Please Know That I Love You; Footprints.

Personnel

Ezra Weiss: narration (2, 4, 6, 8, 9), conductor; John Nastos: alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet; John Savage: alto sax, flute, alto flute; Renato Caranto: tenor sax; Rob Davis: tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet; Mieke Bruggeman: bari, bass clarinet; Greg Garrett: trumpet, flugelhorn; Thomas Barber: trumpet, flugelhorn; Derek Sims: trumpet flugelhorn; Farnell Newton: trumpet, flugelhorn; Stan Bock: trombone; Jeff Uusitalo: trombone; Denzel Mendoza: trombone; Douglas Peebles: bass trombone; Jasnam Daya Singh: piano; Eric Gruber: bass; Alan Jones: drums; Carlton Jackson: percussion; The Camas High School Choir: vocals (9).

Album information

Title: We Limit Not The Truth of God | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: OA2 Records


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