Trombonist Deborah Weisz made her debut as a leader in 1997 with Breaking Up, Breaking Out (Va Wah)--an album that was widely acclaimed, if less widely heard. This sophomore release is even more assured and may finally put Weisz on the map. It's a smart ensemble effort that tacks just left of center, with conviction and cohesion.
Compositionally, Weisz owns up to her main influence: the pianist Jim McNeely, who played on her first album and whose lovely waltz "Touch" graces this one. But she also reaches for a groovy light avant-gardism subtly informed by Ornette Coleman and the AACM. "Dr. Ken" begins with static before tumbling into swing; "Zoneing" suggests not only its namesake (tenor saxophonist George Garzone) but also the early-'60s stirrings of guitarist Jim Hall.
It helps that Weisz has assembled a solid and sympathetic band. At its core is the somewhat unusual sonic combination of trombone, saxophone and guitar; Andrew Sterman, on tenor, and Sheryl Bailey, on guitar, perform handsomely. On several tracks, including the impressive title cut, the group benefits from the additional timbre of Olivier Ker Ourio's harmonica. Still, it's Weisz who commands the spotlight; she's the engine behind this unassuming success.