This pulse-quickening live set, recorded at New York’s Jazz Standard in 2008, is the first recording by trumpeter David Weiss’ repertory-band-with-a-twist. It’s a supple, muscular quintet, loaded with young talent and dedicated to renewing and re-imagining the forward-thinking jazz of the late 1960s, a period when—as Weiss expresses it—the incessant drive to constantly break new ground left some intriguing musical ideas less than fully developed. To that end, the band tackles compositions by usual suspects Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Andrew Hill, but also a pair of tunes written by Charles Moore, whose compositions graced two relatively obscure Blue Note discs by Kenny Cox and the Contemporary Jazz Quintet in 1968-69.
Weiss and company attack this material from two fronts: While drummer Jamire Williams leads one charge with a furious, multi-layered onslaught of finely detailed rhythms, spurred on by Matt Clohesy’s urgent yet shadowy bass pulse, Weiss and tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen spar over the brooding melodies, driving straight into the breach or dancing lightly around the central thrust. Weiss’ delicious solo on “Black Comedy” has all the neurotic nuance of a spoken monologue, roaming from casually tossed-off phrases into brisk argument.
Allen’s turn a few minutes later on “Number Four” is equally striking, with serious-sounding, directly articulated statements jostling against twisty riffs, all wrapped around a soulful wail. In the middle ground between these opposing forces, guitarist Nir Felder snakes through the thickets and strolls through moody grooves, dodging rhythmic bombs and balancing edgy agitation with admirable sangfroid. Put it all together and it’s easy to forget that none of these tunes are new. Instead, they feel as sharp and potent as the quickening breeze from an approaching storm.