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Ezra Weiss: Persephone

Ezra Weiss’ 2003 recording debut, The Five A.M. Strut, was notable for the freshness and sophistication of his writing. His sophomore release, Persephone, at first appears to be a concept album, with liner notes from Edith Hamilton’s classic text, Mythology, containing the story of the Greek goddess. Actually, the Persephone myth lies loosely over the nine originals here, which tell Weiss’ own story.

Weiss is representative of a postmodern generation of young composers for the small jazz ensemble (Ryan Cohan, John Hollenbeck, Anthony Wilson are others) that is interested in going beyond the head-solos-head format to more elaborately developed forms. Sometimes Weiss’ tunes and charts sound a little too self-consciously clever, but their intricacy and textural detail and variety is impressive. Impressive, too, is his band, and the fact that Weiss has kept it fully intact for his first two recordings.

Weiss’ story touches darkness and light, usually in the same song (“Lord Give Me Wings,” “Rise and Fall”), and is interpreted in depth by Antonio Hart and Kelly Roberge on reeds and especially by Michael Philip Mossman, a highly accomplished, under-acknowledged trumpet player.

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