Those that can do. Those that can't, teach...Well, not exactly.
Along with being a faculty member at Portland State University, Ezra Weiss may well indeed be the man for the under 40 jazz composer/arranger set. Oh yeah, not a bad pianist either.
Over the past two years I have reviewed roughly twenty big band recordings with 75% being good. Good in the music business translates into average which then trickles down to the consumer as forgettable.
Ezra Weiss and The Rob Scheps Big Band turn in one of the 5 exceptional releases over that same two year time frame. Those that dig deep past the tired, predictable and at times stale traditional big band sound are sure to be familiar with the work of Ezra Weiss. Those looking for a sexy post modern spin on the future of big band need to huddle up.
Our Path To This Moment is so incredibly impressive because while Weiss obviously respects the foundations upon what the more traditional big band sound was founded on, his somewhat post modern twist is balanced yet full of pop. Highlights on this recording are literally too numerous to mention but allow me to hit just a couple. "It's You Or No One" is a Sammy Cahn-Julie Styne tune that harnesses the energy of this large ensemble with the end result being enough power to light up your city with relative ease. Weiss simply hears sounds and the harmonic possibilities that are unlike any other composer/arranger working with a large ensemble today. "Jessie's Song" is an original composition that Weiss penned for his wife. This particular tune is striking in the aspects of texture and lyrical sense of purpose without getting bogged down in emotional sentimentality that could have easily derailed such a fine tune. Conversely, the emotional vulnerability exhibited in the old spiritual "Wayfaring Stranger" is a thing of beauty.
Colors, texture, and a fierce yet controlled sonic sense of fury place this particular big band recording at the top of the heap without hesitation. The Rob Scheps Big Band deserves high praise as well for they made that special connection necessary to transform the work of Weiss from the ordinary to the extraordinary and with guest trumpet ace Greg Gisbert this is not surprising.
Our Path To This Moment is one of my sleepers of the year. A literally flawless presentation with every member of this ensemble performing at the top of their game.
Ezra Weiss: composer, arranger, piano (3,4,6); Greg Gisbert: trumpet (1,2,7).
The Rob Scheps Big Band:
Gary Harris, David Valdez, Rob Scheps, Scott Hall, Robert Crowell: reeds; Rich Cooper, Paul Mazzio, Greg Garrett, Conte Bennett: trumpets; Stan Bock, Tom Hill, John Moak: trombones; Jattik Clark: tuba; Ramsey Embick: piano (1,2,5,7); Tim Gilson: bass; Ward Griffiths: drums; Chaz Mortimer: percussion (3,7).