David Weiss & Point Of Departure – Snuck In (2010)

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by S. Victor Aaron

We introduced the master trumpeter Weiss on this space as the leader of the talent laden New Jazz Composer’s Octet and he’s shepherded this project through five releases. The NJCO represents just a slice of the long and varied career of this Queens, NY native. Having working with heavies such as Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Jaki Byard, Jimmy Heath, Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, Charles Tolliver and even Ray Charles, Weiss has mastered jazz of all stripes and formats. Point of Departure fulfills Weiss’ desire to lead a smaller combo, a group he spent a couple of years refining with just the right personnel before recording most of the tracks of Snuck In in a live setting at New York’s Jazz Standard club.

Made up of an exciting lineup of players who are poised to rule the jazz scene in a few years, Point Of Departure includes JD Allen (sax), Nir Felder (guitar), Matt Clohesy (bass) and Jamire Williams (drums). An exciting young band in a live setting after the telepathy has been established makes for a good enough record. Weiss elevates this one further still with his choice of material.

Made of only five tracks of songs composed by others, these were obviously carefully chosen numbers for the way they create cohesion throughout the record; even the one studio track, Andrew Hill’s “Erato,” fits right into the overall vibe. And this “vibe” is modern jazz stretched out to its logical extreme where a step further in one direction and it would be called avant garde, a single step in another direction and it would be labeled fusion. None of these tracks have been covered much, but I suspect that has more to do with the complexity of the tunes and certainly not because they aren’t up to snuff.

The progenitors of this form flourished in the latter half of the 1960s, and mostly belonged in the Hallowed House of Blue Note Records. Naturally, Miles Davis fits into this conversation, but Weiss chose to refer to him indirectly instead: the first two songs were written by then-members of his second great quintet just prior to it breaking up. Herbie Hancock’s “I Have a Dream” first appeared on his The Prisoner LP in early 1969, but was rehearsed by the Davis Quintet the prior year (and finally released as part of Columbia’s The Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-68: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings in 1998). Weiss arranged his version closer to the proto-fusion rendition of the earlier recording, with Felder’s guitar playing a role roughly similar to an electric piano. The band launches straight from “Dream” into Tony Williams’ expansive “Black Comedy” from Miles’ transitional Miles In The Sky LP (1968).

There are also two selections trumpet player Charles Moore wrote for the Kenny Cox And The Contemporary Jazz Quintet at around the same time. Both “Number Four” and “Snuck In” were built upon competing time signatures and advanced harmonics that would have been not at all out of place on Miles In The Sky. In both instances, Weiss’ band improves upon the originals with tighter drum work by Williams and refined exchanges between Weiss and Allen. Both of them solo with steady and imaginative phrasing that strongly recalls their forbears without aping them.

In between the two Moore compositions is one by Hill, a delicate number that demonstrates Hill’s firm grasp of the malleable flow of a melody. His 1965 original was rendered in a trio format, but the band after his 1964 masterpiece album replicate his dulcet lines with the horn line, followed by some pretty solo statements by Allen, Felder and finally, Clohesy. This is a song that should be covered a lot more.

Weiss has demonstrated before that he can find previously unexplored possibilities out of superb overlooked songs and refurbish them with a crack crew to where they’re usually better than the originals. That’s what he did for the entire album of Snuck In. Out since June 21, this is only Weiss’ third album under his name, but it is the charm.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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