David Weiss (tp), Myron Walden (as), Jimmy Greene (ts, ss), Steve Davis (tb), Andrew Williams (tb), Chris Karlic (bs), Xavier Davis (p), Dwayne Burno (b), Nasheet Waits (d), Craig Handy (as, ts, ss), Joe Chambers (d)
4**** by All Music Guide
They're back! These eight players present us with their second CD for the Fresh Sound New Talent label after the group's acclaimed debut, "First Steps Into Reality" (FSNT 059 CD) and a string of successful live dates around the globe. This new album is as fresh as ever and presents the group on full form. All the players here are fine jazz musicians and future stars...so discover them today!
01. Dead Weight (Davis) 5:37
02. A Little Twist (Weiss) 7:35
03. Walkin' the Line (Weiss) 7:27
04. Abdullah's Demeanor (Handy) 10:51
05. Inner Space (Corea) 7:39
06. The Dove (Davis) 8:52
07. The Fork in the Road (Burno) 6:23
David Weiss (tp); Myron Walden (as); Jimmy Greene (ts, ss); Steve Davis (tb); Andrew Williams (tb); Chris Karlic (bs); Xavier Davis (p); Dwayne Burno (b); Nasheet Waits (d); Craig Handy (as, ts, ss); Joe Chambers (d).
Recorded December 2000
Produced by David Weiss
Executive producer: Jordi Pujol
"The independent Fresh Sound New Talent label is based in Spain, but in the last couple of years it has become a place to find the strongest young players in New York. A compelling example is 'Walkin' The Line' by The New Jazz Composers Octet. It may be the most ambitious, most fully realized project yet undertaken on a label that has quickly assembled an impressive portfolio.
NJCO was founded in 1996 and released its debut album, the well-received 'First Steps Into Reality', in 1999, also on Fresh Sound New Talent. The frontline is now founder David Weiss (trumpet), Steve Davis or Andrew Williams (trombones) and varying combinations of Jimmy Greene, Myron Walden, Craig Handy and Chris Karlic (reeds). The rhythm section is pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Nasheet Waits. Collectively and individually, this group is successful in addressing the primary challenge facing today's young jazz musician: how to acknowledge the great achievements of 40 and 50 years ago that shaped the standards of the art form and yet meet the aesthetic imperative of jazz to innovate.
The band's commitment to creative composition is fulfilled in six exceptional originals, all very different. Davis' "Deadweight" starts convoluted and dense, a blaring anthem that suddenly clears spaces for incisive solos from Weiss, Davis and Walden on alto. Weiss' quasiwaltz "A Little Twist" is Ellingtonian in its rich burnished colors and its elegant, swaying momentums. The title track, also by Weiss, is intricate and formal before it launches solists. Craig Handy takes two epic solos on the Weiss pieces, on soprano for "A Little Twist" and on alto for "Walkin' The Line". They are grand yet concentrated soliloquies, full of heedless melodius ravings. Handy also contributes the single most memorable composition, "Abdullah's Demeanor," an intense 11-minute slow burn over bassist Burno's repeated five-note ritual. Handy (on tenor) flails and tears at the restraints of patience imposed by his own song.
The octet configuration is beautifully suited to the purposes of this enterprise. The ensemble is large enough to provide weight and a variety of voicings but small enoughto pivot and swerve on short notice. The acrutely intelligent charts, in their harmonic sophistication and meaningful content, reflect an internalized awareness of the great acoustic mainstream as defined by seminal figures such as Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. But they also refresh this tradition with post-modern, open, asymmetrical structures. Solos grow organically out of the carefully detailed designs, but then they find the freedom to fly, in phaseologies that acknowledge all the jagged history that has transpired since 1960. These guys invent with a zeal made relevant by musicianship and the passionate focus of players who have found their format.
More than most small independents, Fresh Sound New Talent is interested in audio quality. For 'Walkin' The Line', they used one of the best studios and best engineers in the country, Systems Two in Brooklyn and Joe Marciano, respectively. Even when the octet screams loudly as one, Marciano provides precise discrimination among instruments."
-Thomas Conrad, Jazz Times
"On Walkin' the Line, the second release by the New Jazz Composers Octet, trumpeter David Weiss, who also serves as the cooperative band's spokesperson, is joined by original members Xavier Davis on piano, alto saxophonist Myron Walden, drummer Nasheet Waits, bassist Dwayne Burno, and trombonist Steve Davis on a program of original songs and one outstanding cover.
The guest artists: tenor/soprano saxophonist Jimmy Greene, Andrew Williams, and Chris Karlic are joined by two honorary members Craig Handy and Joe Chambers who both lend their outstanding expertise on saxophones and drums, respectively. The ensemble performs a melodically beautiful and harmonically complex program of seven songs, all of which were written by members of the New Jazz Composers Octet.
Beginning with "Deadweight," a modern, propulsive composition, the ensemble moves from a densely orchestrated opening theme into provocative solos by David Weiss, Myron Walden, and Nasheet Waits. Toward the end of the program, a rearranged Chick Corea gem titled "Inner Space" is given new life with an outstanding performance by Xavier Davis on piano and Jimmy Greene on tenor saxophone. When compared to their debut, First Steps Into Reality, listeners will recognize the superb musical growth of the ensemble and indeed realize the reality of the stretch. This is an excellent recording and one that should be in every jazz collection that specializes in fresh sounds by new talent."
Paula Edelstein -All Music Guide
"Rather than going with the common straightahead formula of head-solos-head, the New Jazz Composers Octet prefers ensemble counterpoint in which agreed-upon changes add a sense of the exotic. Shifting harmonies and juxtaposed meters combine with the artists natural rhythmic swing and reverence for tonal purity. David Weiss title track, for example, opens with the kinds of dissonance that would suitably accompany a films more dramatic scenes. Then, between fierce, bebop-derived solos, the octet continues to push their ensemble sound forward as one tight unit. With the trumpet on top, tenors and trombones in the middle, and baritone sax with bass holding up a big bottom, the band forges ahead en masse. Standout solo work from Craig Handy and Xavier Davis provide the session with that extra quality we look for in jazz.
This is the octets second album. From New York, theyve been together now for five years. Unlike popular music, their melodies arent the kind you sing to yourself in the shower. Each piece is an adventure. The composers and arrangers build each one gradually with sounds being placed together intentionally. Eight instrumental voices sound like sixteen. Acoustic timbres cause the program to retain a natural sound. As long as spirits can work successfully together like this in complete accord, jazz will continue to grow beyond the usual format".
-Jim Santella, All About Jazz (www.allaboutjazz.com)
"From the sound of it, the future of the large group ensemble is clearly in good hands with the New Jazz Composers Octet, a combination of old school horns and creative young jazz musicians. The NJCO is carving out a name for itself by paying respect to names such as Lee Morgan, Freddy Hubbard, and Joe Henderson through interesting compositional and arranging skills.
The New York based octet has composed and performed together for over five years, with a common aspiration to play adventurous, challenging, and modern music. Walkin the Line is their second release, featuring up-and-coming cats such as trumpeter David Weiss and saxophonist Myron Weldon, along with a set of other vibrant musicians.
With skills that can compete with any large ensemble group, the octet features progressive compositions in a post-bop vein, where the emphasis is creating music that is fresh and not nostalgic. What sets them apart is the groups detailed delivery, which is rooted in tradition, yet contemporary. Notwithstanding some stellar individual performances, the group shines as a whole. A few of the written offerings should be noted, such as The Fork In The Road by bassist Dwayne Burno which features nice horn interactions in a heavy swing mode. Pianist Xavier Davis "The Dove glides in peaceful harmony with a timeless groove, while David Weiss title composition is a serious statement of the depth of the groups abilities. Swirling horns, tight arrangements, and strong solos fill the recording, resulting in a vibrant outing from the NJCO."
-Mark F. Turner, All About Jazz (www.allaboutjazz.com)
"Now onto their third album, leader David Weiss declares that his aim with the New Jazz Composers Octet is not just to nurture, but to expand the musical horizons of the revolving cast of members passing through. His vision is of a new jazz mainstream, grounded in, but stretching beyond, hard bop. The approach recalls that of Weiss' hero Freddie Hubbard on his more adventurous Blue Note discs (Hub Tones and Breaking Point), or Chick Corea's quintet with Joe Farrell and Woody Shaw. Their last recording New Colors (Hip Bop) featured Hubbard as a soloist on reinterpretations of his music and was highly acclaimed.
On this latest outing Joe Chambers drums on onetrack, underlining Weiss' allegiances, as well as bringing together two different generations in a way that makes perfect sense. The group's take on Corea's Inner Space" best illustrates their approach, the tricky melody played faithfully, but with a richer, fuller sound, by the little-big-band horn section. The stage is then cleared for the solos to begin. Greene's authoritative and impassioned tenor is followed by a bridge from the horns. Handy's alto then cascades into the action before another bridge, then Davis tidies up with an unfettered piano solo which veers towards atonality.
Throughout the disc the ever impressive Nasheet Waits stirs up a rhythmic vortex that recalls young Tony Williams at his most rampant. The original compositions aren't half bad either - Davis' beautiful ballad The Dove" and Handy's darkly ruminative Abdullah's Demeanor" nicely changing the pace on a recording that is for the most part breakneck. Other standouts are the swaggering title track and the rollicking opener Deadweight", where the leader's piercing trumpet recalls the glory days of his mentor Hubbard. If this is the new jazz mainstream, then we're seeing a qualitative change away from Young Lion-ism that is wholly for the better. Music by people with passion and individuality as well as chops, Walkin' The Line offers rich pickings and is strongly recommended."
-Fred Grand, Jazz Review (UK) February 2003
"Even though the New Jazz Composers Octet started working together in 1996, it wasnt until the Spanish jazz label, Fresh Sound New Talent, lived up to its name once again by releasing the NJCOs first CD, First Steps Into Reality. Indeed, the CD involved some fresh sounds by talent that hadnt had a break in recording for a major label. Nonetheless, NJCO had been developing its own material over the years in preparation for performances throughout New York, and when the opportunity to record the CD arose, NJCO was prepared.
Individually, the members of NJCO are first-rate composers, and the collectives new CD, Walkin The Line, includes tunes written and arranged by various members, including honorary member Craig Handy. In spite of the individuality of imagination that the members employ in their compositions, they share the same vision of advancing the art form of jazz through challenging arrangements that involve no less than five horns to broaden the harmonic possibilities of the compositions. In addition, the use of so many horns also allows for the continuing movement of lines within a tune, even as the melody is stated and the harmonic basis is formed. Case in point: David Weiss Walkin The Line, which starts with martial references as the saxophones play assertive quarter notes for the first eleven seconds until Weiss shatters the illusion of tidy order with his fluid and understated lead into another theme. The ensuing unpredictability of thematic movements contrasts with the initial rigid structure.
As the designated spokesman, Weiss is always front and center with quotes about the meaning of the groups music and the enthusiasm of the collectives members in creating new music. Even so, he acknowledges the influence of the jazz greats of the 1960s, like Herbie Hancock and Joe Henderson, in forming their own personalized music as well. Synthesizing the music that inspired the NJCOs members, they have formed their own sound as well, both collectively and individually. Pianist Xavier Daviss The Dove naturally allows for Davis to explore his own composition at his leisure, backed by Dwayne Burnos prodding bass lines and Nasheet Waitss shimmering cymbal work. On the other hand, Burnos The Fork In The Road, which one would expect to be rooted in an unmistakable bass line, like Cedar Waltons Bolivia for example, instead flows and swirls in the hands of the NJCO, and it allows for extended improvisation, most notably by alto saxophonist Myron Walden and trombonist Steve Davis.
Now that the New Jazz Composers Octet has gained its richly deserved recognition, not to mention recording opportunities, its successive CDs continue elevating its reputation, providing evidence that the future of jazz is being created today by serious and creative musicians with their own identities and styles."
-Don Williamson (www.jazzreview.com)