David Weiss (tp), Myron Walden (as), Jimmy Greene (ts), Greg Tardy (ts), Andrew Williams (tb), James Farnsworth (bs), Dave Rickenberg (bs), Xavier Davis (p), Dwayne Burno (b), Nasheet Waits (d)
Bar code: 8427328420594
This unique debut CD by this composers collective features some of the finest young talent in jazz today in a five horn front line setting that fully exploits their exceptional compositional and improvisitional abilities.
"Before appraising the music, a word about the concept and what a wonderful one it is, a group of young Jazz musicians coming together to nurture their skills as composers and explore their everwidening musical capabilities. The NJCO, formed in 1996 by trumpeter David Weiss, provides the pathway over which these aspiring writers are able to move toward their goal, and First Steps into Reality (an entry in Fresh Sounds admirable new talent series) represents their first recorded excursion along that thoroughfare. Although these are merely first steps, no one stumbles; these (comparatively) unseasoned essayists have plenty to say, and the talent to express clearly their singular point of view. And even if they didnt, the NJCO would still be a marvelous idea.
Turning to the music, the program consists of three compositions by pianist Xavier Davis, two by alto saxophonist Myron Walden, one each by Weiss and bassist Dwayne Burno and Weisss arrangement of Freddie Hubbards D Minor Mint. The boppish opener, Daviss First Steps, sounds like something Gerry Mulligan might have written for the groundbreaking Birth of the Cool sessions or his concert Jazz ensemble. Walden, Weiss and Davis quickly find the groove and deliver crackling solos. The Mulligan influence resurfaces on Daviss restful ballad When the Spirit Hits, while his third composition, Liberation, is a freewheeling swinger that would fit snugly in the Jazz Messengers book (and includes another rambunctious solo by Davis and Nasheet Waits highpowered Art Blakey impersonation).
Waldens works Ill Always Love You, Untitled in Ab Minor are more introspective but no less engaging, while Weisss Tribute to the Elders is a fleetfooted flagwaver that sets the stage for Burnos sensuous ballad, Im a Comin on Home. Elders includes a rapidfire Brignolalike solo by baritone James Farnsworth, to whom the album is dedicated. Farnsworth, the calm, quiet force behind the band, was only 33 years old when he died, less than a year after taking part in the first of two sessions that encompass the album.
Farnsworth was replaced on the second date by Dave Reikenberg, with tenor Jimmy Greene sitting in for Greg Tardy. Farnsworth has another firstrate solo on Comin Home. Hubbards bopcentered tune, D Minor Mint, was included, says Weiss, for some perspective. Perhaps to show these young lions (most if not all of whom are in their 20s) that theres always room for further growth. Here as elsewhere, the octet plays with awareness and cohesion. Were musicians, and we all have pretty big egos, says Weiss, but a lot of the fun of this is working collaboratively. . . .The music really benefits that way.
Those benefits are readily apparent on First Steps, steps that are assuredly leading these enterprising young musicians along the road to success. Like the month of June in the musical Carousel, their talent is bustin out all over".
-Jack Bowers (All About Jazz)
"David Weiss, nominal leader of this date, is reminiscent of Don Sickler. A skilled arranger, transcriber and all-round coordinator, Weiss also brings righteous trumpet chops to this potent mix. Were it not for the liner notes, Weiss' leadership would not be particularly evident, as this session (recorded over several months in '97 and '98) comes off as a cooperative effort among a group of exceptional thirtysomething musicians.
The glue is the solid rhythm team of drummer Nasheet Waits, bassist Dwayne Burno and pianist Xavier Davis. They are enveloped in a hornucopia of Weiss, alto saxman Myron Walden, trombonist Andrew Williams, tenorist Gregory Tardy and the late baritone saxophonist James Farnsworth. Jimmy Greene and Dave Riekenberg spell the latter two on three tracks.
Right from the jump there's a hint of Mingus flavor in their crisp, little big band horn harmonies as they swing through the gate on Davis' title track. With all their tools and composers (Davis brought three tunes, Walden two, Burno and Weiss one each, and Weiss laid a fresh coat of paint on Freddie Hubbard's "D Minor Mint"), they steadfastly avoid head-solos-head monotony, often blowing burnished harmonies behind a soloist, massed horns turning up at unexpected junctures of a given piece. Their sense of architecture, a la the classic structure of Weiss' "Tribute to the Elders," also merits kudos."
-Willard Jenkins (Jazz Times Magazine)
"Although this octet plays mainly tradition-bound hard bop, it still can justifiably call itself "new." David Weiss founder, leader, and trumpeter of the New Jazz Composers Octet is joined by some highly advanced young straight-ahead jazzers, including pianist Xavier Davis, tenor saxophonist Gregory Tardy, alto saxophonist Myron Walden, bassist Dwayne Burno, and drummer Nasheet Waits.
Compositionally speaking, Davis and Walden are the stars of the record. Walden pens the mellow yet challenging "I'll Always Love You" and the multi-layered "Untitled in A flat Minor." In addition to the medium-fast "First Steps Into Reality," Davis contributes a waltz titled "When the Spirit Hits," as well as the ambitious final track, "Liberation." Dwayne Burno's "I'm A Comin' Home" begins and ends in ballad fashion with a chorale-like minor melody, morphing into a medium-slow minor blues for the solos. Tenor Gregory Tardy blows with restrained, elegant fire, and the late James Farnsworth, to whom the album is dedicated, takes his turn on baritone.
Weiss' trumpet solos are redoubtable on "Tribute to the Elders," "First Steps," and especially "D Minor Mint," a Freddie Hubbard composition arranged by Weiss and the one non-original of the session.
Other performance highlights include Andrew Williams' fluid trombone solos on "First Steps" and "D Minor Mint." Jimmy Greene and Dave Rickenberg replace Tardy and Farnsworth, respectively, on three tracks. Greene turns in fine solos on "D Minor Mint" and "When the Spirit Hits."
-David R. Adler (All Music Guide)
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