David Weiss (tp), Marcus Strickland (ts), Craig Handy (as), Xavier Davis (p), Dwayne Burno (b), E.J. Strickland (d)
Bar code: 8427328421102
David Weiss first came to the attention of Fresh Sound Records as the co-leader of the critically acclaimed New Jazz Composers Octet whose debut album First Steps into Reality (Fresh Sound FSNT-059) was lauded as a gem and received a Critics Pick as one of the Top 5 Albums of the Year in Jazz Times. The Octet built on the success of First Steps into Reality by collaborating with trumpet legend Freddie Hubbard on the recently released New Colors (Hip Bop Records). The London Observer praised the Octets fine, surging ensemble sound and noted Trumpeter-arranger David Weiss is definitely a name to watch.
For Breathing Room, Weiss called on his New Jazz Composers Octet co-leaders pianist Xavier Davis and bassist Dwayne Burno and introduces two of the finest young musicians to come on the scene in quite some time, tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland and drummer E.J. Strickland (look for Marcus debut CD At Last also on Fresh Sound, FSNT-101). Long-time collaborator Craig Handy plays alto sax on four numbers. The music has its roots in the 60s Blue Note sound with the inclusion of to lesser-known Wayne Shorter compositions and a variation on the classic Joe Henderson composition The Kicker. But while Weiss is clearly influenced by the writing of Wayne Shorter, his compositions for sextet prove he has his own unique and distinct voice. Weiss recently won the Chamber Music America Doris Duke Jazz Ensembles Project: Creation and Presentation grant for his compositions.
Since returning to New York in 1986, Weiss has performed and/or recorded with Freddie Hubbard, Tom Harrell, Barry Harris, Jaki Byard, Jimmy Heath, Jimmy Cobb, Terence Blanchard, Randy Brecker, Pete LaRoca, Clifford Jordon, Junior Cook, Reuben Wilson, Jeff Watts, Benny Green, Bob Belden, Roy Hargrove, Frank Foster, Eddie Henderson, James Spaulding, Idris Muhammad, and Billy Hart. Weiss is also a highly sought after arranger, collaborating with Freddie Hubbard, Abbey Lincoln, Rodney Kendrick and many others. He also arranged the Main Theme for the Cosby Mysteries for NBC, Alto Legacy featuring Phil Woods, Vincent Herring, and Antonio Hart, and a Rahsaan Roland Kirk tribute album entitled Haunted Melodies featuring many of the top saxophonists in New York including Joe Lovano, Donald Harrison, and James Spaulding.
DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE, JULY 2002:
MARCUS STRICKLAND QUARTET "At Last"
***1/2 (3.5 / 5)
DAVID WEISS "Breathing Room"
**** (4 / 5)
"The Fresh Sound New Talent organization is an example of truth in labelling. The small, independent label, based in Barcelona, Spain, is becoming one of the most reliable sources in jazz for adventurous music played by promising young voices - like the debut recordings of David Weiss and Marcus Strickland.
Each of these albums sounds intensely current, yet each reflects a literate understanding of the history that most interests Weiss and Strickland, which is the Wayne Shorter school of musical indirection. The spirit of Shorter hovers over both of these projects. Weiss uses two very early Shorter compositions on 'Breathing Room', "Those Who Sit And Wait" from 1961 and "Armageddon" from 1964. On 'At Last', Strickland plays "Iris", written by Shorter for Miles Davis' 1965 album 'E.S.P.'
Weiss writes tunes with evocative melodic ambivalence and veering surprises amd hovering pedal points and metrical asymmetry, all qualities associated with the sensibility that Shorter brought to jazz. But Weiss does not repeat it; he expands upon it. Strickland's Shorter influence is more sublimated. His tenor saxophone sound is harder and fuller than Shorter's, for example, but he shares a taste for the chromatically oblique and the counter-intuitive.
Weiss does not dominate the solo space on 'Breathing Room', often allowing his saxophones or piano to go first. But when he steps out, his statements are finely crafted, like the careful, gradual ascent that he evolves on the title track. Marcus Strickland is a sideman on the Weiss date and he displays both the fervor of youth and the discipline and sophistication to function in a musical setting that requires him to look before he leaps, every time. Craig Handy makes the group a sextet on the four Weiss originals. Best known for his tenor work, he plays alto here and injects passion into Weiss' cerebral creative processes. His solo on "Getaway" is a paradigm of how to build a climax in a short space.
'Breathing Room' ends with a wildly tricky show-off tour de force called "Kickback", based on the chord changes to Joe Henderson's "The Kicker." It is a performance that suggests a bright future for David Weiss as trumpeter and composer and bandleader, and also creates curiosity about the Strickland twins. Marcus' twin brother, E.J., is the drummer on 'Breathing Room', and he exudes cocky authority supported by competence.
That curiosity is at least partially satisfied by Marcus' own recording, where brother E.J. fully asserts himself. 'At Last' is not as ambitious as the Weiss album in terms of total design, and is not as well recorded. But it demonstrates that the Strickland brothers are two of the most promising improvisers in jazz under the age of 25. In performances like the delicately detailed "Iris" and the convoluted yet graceful "Serenity" (by Joe Henderson), Marcus displays a gift for assembling long strings of ideas that spark with moment - by - moment spontaneity, governed by logic. As for E.J., he is the most exciting new drummer since Billy Kilson - and, going back further, like Tony Williams or Billy Higgins - E.J. can emit fields of cumulative energy, clouds of feather-touch and heavy-handed syncopations, latent with power like an oncoming storm."
Thomas Conrad (July, 2002)
JAZZWISE RECOMMENDATION **** (4 / 4)
"Hope You'll remember trumpeter - arranger - composer Weiss as leader of the adventurous New Jazz Composers Octet (their own album's called "First Steps Into Reality" on Fresh Sound New Talent), which also supported Freddie Hubbard on the recent Hip Bop CD, "New Colours" and excellent Jazz café gigs. On his solo debut, he's chosen to lead a group of wonderful young musicians in what is basically a tribute to Wayne Shorter in his Blakey Blue Note days. Weiss' trumpet playing is a real surprise. His osund is a kickback to that of Lee Morgan with some Kenny Dorhan thrown in. His solos are melodic, long-lined and, like his compositions, extremely interesting harmonically.
The Young Strickland twins - Marcus (tenor) and EJ (drums) are fast becoming really exciting, inventive players and their performances here are everything Weiss could wish for, with Marcus sounding very like the sometimes under-appreciated Shorter himself. The improvement in their playing in the 12 months since the Sharp Nine 'Class of 2001' was recorded is remarkable.
I expect great things from them in the future. Pianist Xavier Davis and bassist Dwayne Berno are equally striking in their solo and section contributions - and, on four tracks, the groups becomes a sextet with the inclusion of tenorist Craig Handy reverting to his original horn, the alto, and contributing some intense, incisive solo spots.
The high standard of the material matches the outstanding playing. Alongside Shorter's 'Armageddon' and 'Those Who Sit and Wait' are four impressive Weiss compositions (the title tune and, especially, 'Dark Forces' are perhaps the best) and a Marcus Strickland piece, which gets everyone off. If you love hard bop, look no further."
Tony Hall -Jazzwise
"I'm very Wayne influenced,' David Weiss tells Zan stewart in the liner notes of Breathing Room. Weiss makes no bones about his love of Wayne Shorter as a composer or of Freddie Hubbard as a trumpeter. He is straw boss of the New Jazz Composers Octet, which has backed Hubbard in his most recent comeback and serves as a showcase for Weiss' writing. The sextet arrangements here demonstrate that he has no problem maintaining a rich ensemble sound and intruiging lines in a smaller band. Even the quintet tracks have fullness in Weiss' voicings. Shorter's influence may be apparent in the charts and Hubbard's in the playing, but Weiss' craftmanship and individuality in both areas lift his music out of the retrograde movement. It is an indicator of his skill that his five compositions complement the Shorter compositions on the album, "Those Who Sit and Wait" and "Armageddon."
Weiss' sextet includes his longtime collegue Craig Handy on alto rather than his customary tenor saxophone, pianist Xavier Davis and bassist Dwayne Burno, all from the NJCO, all at their usual impressive level. The other members are the brothers Marcus and E.J. Strickland on tenor sax and drums, respectively. At the time of the recording, the were students at the New School, and they held their own in fast company. Marcus Strickland's solo on "Breathing Room" is notable not only for its range and sense of proportion, but also for his use of space, not a usual attribute of young lion tenormen. His work and that of E.J., a listening drummer, make them worth following.
Weiss' playing has consistency and logic. His writing suggests thata major composer/arranger may be developing".
Doug Ramsey -Jazz Times
****1/2 (4.5 / 5)
"David Weiss, having paid his dues and gaining due respect, is one of the members of that increasingly rare breed of successful musicians who painstakingly lay out a concept for his or her CD and then executes it not only with detail and nuance, but also with feeling. Weiss, it seems, is devoted to the music--his own and that of the progenitors who influenced his compositional talent. Commercial concerns follow. Breathing Room excels on a number of levels, all of which owing their existence to Weiss determination in achieving the sound he seeks.
That sound derives, without apologies, most especially from Wayne Shorters landmark compositional originality, and to a lesser extend from Joe Henderson and Freddie Hubbard. A serious student of jazz structure and harmony, Weiss obviously has realized the components of the jazz idiom and incorporated them into his three-part horn arrangements, which sometimes curl in unison until the thickened stem evolves into a blossom of unfolding and shifting colors. While all of that sounds very serious and technically abstruse, the level of musicianship on Breathing Room attains individual excellence that bears repeated listening. The fact that all six members of the group hold the same insights into the music means that theyre on the same page when they play and thus reach out to their listeners with eloquent solos or harmonic richness.
Weve heard from Weiss before. After years of playing with the likes of Tom Harrell, Frank Foster and Jimmy Heath, the New Jazz Composers Octet, which he co-founded, stepped out on First Steps Into Reality. Stunning listeners with its evolution of hard bop into a fully colored spectrum of sounds. The NJCO combined an irresistible drive with broader swatchs. In addition, Weiss was partially responsible for encouraging Freddie Hubbard to emerge from retirement and perform on Hubbards first CD in almost a decade, New Colors. Still, because of Hubbards well-documented lip problems, it soon became evident that the most cogent reason for listening to New Colors was Weiss arresting arrangements that backed Hubbard.
With full acknowledgement of the overriding spirit of Wayne Shorter on Weiss music, he includes two of Shorters tunes on Breathing Room, Armageddon from Night Dreamer and Those Who Sit And Wait from Art Blakeys The Witch Doctor. Ominous and unpredictable, as are many of Shorters compositions, Those Who Sit And Wait, moving at a Jazz Messenger pace that waits for no one, certainly is reminiscent of Shorters work with Lee Morgan and Bobby Timmons. And drummer E.J. Strickland, brother of tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland, propels the music with a crispness and respectful understatement thats even more evident on Weiss Kickback, the hi-hat clamped tightly after its initial ring to add precision to the hard bop-derived off-centered accents.
Individually, all of the musicians contribute to the fulfillment of Weiss compositional intentions, Burnos bass undercurrent unobtrusively animating the work through the creation of laid-back versus pushing-ahead tension as Weiss sings through long tones on Dark Forces. On each track, the groove of the solos inevitably deserves a second listen to appreciate the seeming ease with which they are played, even as the soloist gets to the heart of the music. On the aptly named Parallel Sonarities, yet another Shorter-influenced piece, Weiss and Marcus Strickland entwine their sonic threads, moving in and out of harmony and into, at first listen, unknown territory, before the tune settles into more familiar grounding as a minor-keyed basis for top-notch improvisations.
Rather than re-creating the music of the artists he respects, as, say, The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra does, Weiss combines the hard-bop vocabulary he loves with his own ideas for an updating of the music. With too few small groups working from tightly arranged music, not to mention from new difficult-to-play compositions, Weiss sextet deserves attention for the opportunity to enjoy too seldom-heard musicians who have matured musically ahead of their time. As did the earlier generation of musicians they revere. (4.5 / 5 )
Don Williamson -52nd Street Jazz Web Site
" If you walked into a room, closed your eyes, and listened Davis Weiss debut CD, Breathing Room, youd think that you were getting a small dose of Blue Note heaven. You couldnt put your finger on which artist, but youd figure it might be a previously unreleased Blue Note hard bop recording of the early 1960s. Bits and pieces could be identified with Lee Morgan, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Hank Mobley, Freddie Hubbard, Horace Silver or Art Blakeys Jazz Messengers. The sound is glorious, the music played exceeding well. It all sounds familiar but the tunes are mostly unrecognizable. Many of the pieces are compositions written by Weiss.
Weiss and his band, featuring Marcus and E.J. Strickland, Craig Handy, Xavier Davis and Dwayne Burno, play tightly and intricately as they reconstruct the hard bop idiom. It is a conservative approach, but you can not argue with the vitality of the recording. Weiss bands music is as fresh now as it was then.
The album was produced by the Spanish-based Fresh Sound/New Talent Records. Its just that: talented young musicians with a crisp sound that reverently re-examines a well-traveled terrain. Highlights of Breathing Room include Getaway and Those Who Sit and Wait.
Keep an eye and ear for these musicians as they explore new sonic territories in future recordings."
John Doll -Jazz Review Web Site
"NOTEWORTHY: New Jazz Composer's Octet co-leader David Weiss steps out for his debut recording as a leader with "Breathing Room" on Barcelona-based Fresh Sound Records. Recording witha septet, Weiss creates a dense, inviting sound influenced by Wayne Shorter, whose "Those Who Sit and Wait" he interprets.
"I suppose I've always focused on the Octet, so doing a record of my own was not a priority," Weiss says. "In New York in the late '80s, there were a lot more jam sessions and lots of people offering to record you. I never took anyone up on the offers, and then after four or five years the economy shifted a bit, and the offers became more scarce."
In recent years, Weiss has worked with the Octet and as an arranger / producer for recent Fresh Sound releases by tenor player Marcus Strickland and pianist Xavier Davis (both of whom appear on 'Breathing Room'). "There are so many records coming out these days that it is hard to distinguish oneself from the pack, " Weiss says. "But this time, when the offer came (from Fresh Sounds owner Jordi Pujol) to do my own record, I had a lot of material ready, so I decided it was finally time to take someone up on the offer and put out something of my own."
Steven Graybow -Billboard Magazine