Let’s call bunk on the claim that jazz should always find new things to say. Venture Inward, the new platter from trumpeter David Weiss and his quintet Point of Departure, is steeped in 1960s postbop—specifically that of Miles Davis—and it would be futile to argue that it is anything but jazz of the highest order.
Following his two outstanding live albums, Snuck In and Snuck Out, Weiss plants his feet unapologetically in jazz’s relatively unsung heyday, naming his band for Andrew Hill’s famous record and playing two of the pianist’s tunes. The group starts with an 11 1/2-minute cover of Herbie Hancock’s “I Have a Dream” that segues seamlessly into Tony Williams’ “Black Comedy,” all of which is framed by the restless, roiling drumming of Jamire Williams and the pinpoint precision of guitarist Nir Felder and bassist Luques Curtis, who stick their off-beat landings every time. Weiss blows fierce passages on these first two numbers and again on Charles Moore’s “Number 4”—until the rhythm softens, at which point he does too, and his brassy bursts take on rounded edges.
The quintet puts on a clinic in symbiosis; everybody pays attention to and appreciates what the other members are doing. Nowhere is this clearer than on Hill’s “Pax,” on which Weiss and fiery saxophonist JD Allen rein themselves in so that the patient work of the rhythm section can shine. When Allen solos, he does so with restraint, bringing forth his more romantic side.
The odd thing here is that Point of Departure has recorded four of these six tunes before—and in the same order on 2010’s Snuck In. Whereas many groups will release live albums containing music they had previously recorded in the studio, this band has done the opposite. Not only does this illustrate that Weiss tries to perfect his material on the road, but it reinforces the point that the essence of jazz is personal expression rather than breaking new ground.