With Our Path to This Moment, composer, arranger and pianist Ezra Weiss takes to the big band format in grand, full style.
Since his debut, Five A.M. Strut, Weiss has been piling up attention and accolades as one of the hottest young voices in jazz. He has evolved with each release, digging into themes like Greek mythology (Persephone) and the work of Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) while maintaining his own vision.
Our Path to This Moment is the culmination of at least a dozen years of desire. He wanted to record music with a professional big band since the early 2000s when he attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He earned a bachelor’s degree in jazz composition and went on to put his knowledge to good use, but this record is the one that could really be termed as a coming-out party.
Our Path to This Moment features none other than the Rob Scheps Big Band. Led by saxophonist Scheps, the 17-member outfit works up a sweat through Weiss’ charts. Grounded by drummer Ward Griffiths and bassist Tim Gilson, the band benefits greatly from the composer’s ability to place things just as they should be.
Weiss plays piano on three of the pieces, including the Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne song “It’s You or No One.” The track is probably most associated with Dexter Gordon, but Weiss builds it the hearty track into a bandstand classic. Schep’ tenor saxophone solo takes first billing and spiritedly interacts with the Chaz Mortimer-assisted tempo, leading to a Weiss solo that balances the piece out nicely.
Pianist Ramsey Embick chimes in on “The Promise,” a composition that nods back to Weiss’ time at Oberlin. This is a well-wound, elegantly-phrased composition that illustrates his knowledge of dynamics and emotional shifts. That David Valdez’s alto saxophone helps express this is an added bonus.
Weiss’ aptly-titled Our Path to This Moment is as true a statement as to the growth of a composer as I’ve had the pleasure of hearing all year. The three-time ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award-winner and Portland State University instructor will continue to evolve, providing great musicians with plenty of intelligent, sophisticated charts for many years to come.