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David Weiss: Breathing Room

“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 intriguing 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’ craftsmanship 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 colleague Craig Handy on alto rather than his customary tenor saxophone, pianist Xavier Davis and bassist Dwayne Burno, all from the NJOC, 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, they 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 that a major composer/arranger may be developing.

Originally Published