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David Weiss: When Words Fail

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The title for this recording evokes Hans Christian Andersen’s commentary on the power of music: “Where words fail, music speaks.” Words indeed fail here, and this instrumental album reflects on the theme of loss-the pain, grief and sense of hopelessness-but also the ability of music to uplift, offering solace and hope.

Returning to a sextet format for the first time in almost a decade, Weiss is joined by a stellar cast of longtime collaborators: Myron Walden and Marcus Strickland on alto and tenor saxophones, respectively, Xavier Davis on piano, Dwayne Burno on bass and E.J. Strickland on drums. All but two of the compositions are Weiss originals. The title track is dedicated to Burno; sadly, this was the final offering by the gifted bassist, who passed away at the age of 43 only a week after the album was recorded. “The Intrepid Hub,” a play on the title of the classic Freddie Hubbard composition “The Intrepid Fox,” pays homage to Hubbard. Aptly daring and bold, it employs a chord change from Hubbard’s tune and quotes from “Lifelight,” which Weiss and Hubbard recorded together prior to the latter’s passing. Closing the album is “Passage Into Eternity,” dedicated to the family of saxophonist Jimmy Greene, whose heartbreaking loss of daughter Anna Grace in the Sandy Hook tragedy profoundly affected Weiss and the entire jazz community. Expressing their agonizing grief, it is also a testament to their strength, bravery and faith.

Weiss has led several diverse projects in recent years. Here the sextet skirts the outer reaches of straight-ahead jazz, innovating while drawing from tradition. The recording benefits from the familiarity and chemistry shared by the bandmates, creating a powerful, propulsive force. Weiss’ complex compositions, some featuring dark themes and dense harmonies, are balanced with compelling melodies.

Originally Published