Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rob Scheps and Ezra Weiss: Our Path to this Moment

Roark Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Our Path to this Moment

I first encountered Ezra Weiss in 2009, while reviewing Alice in Wonderland: A Jazz Musical, the first of two works he wrote to expose young children to jazz; it was named one of the Top 10 cast albums that year by In 2010, Weiss followed up with Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Weiss holds a bachelor’s degree in jazz composition from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, a master’s degree in jazz piano performance from Queens College, and has won the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award three times. He has arranged and composed for numerous name groups and currently teaches at Portland State University.

Rob Scheps, who plays all of the reed instruments, is a New York native. He attended both the Manhattan and Eastman Schools of Music, formed and worked with numerous groups in and around the Big apple, then moved to Portland, Oregon in 1997. He’s a member of that city’s symphony and also is on the faculty at Portland State University. 

Scheps’ standard big band consists of five reeds (he handles tenor sax), four trumpets, three trombones, a tuba, piano (Weiss), bass, drums and an additional percussionist. For this album, Scheps also added trumpeter Greg Gisbert, who has worked in bands fronted by Buddy Rich, Woody Herman and John Fedchock.

This album features seven compositions and arrangements by Weiss: truly serious jazz. You’ll hear chord structures and rhythmic variations that are much more complex — and interesting — than those used by standard big bands. The solo passages aren’t “written,” but their chord progressions are; they therefore “fit” wonderfully into the basic ensemble background. 

The result doesn’t swing in the same way that Woody’s Herds did (as one example), but what comes out definitely qualifies as jazz. Repeated playing will reveal nuances that you may have missed during earlier visits, which then demands yet another repeat play. You can listen to this orchestra for hours ... and you’ll still want more. Don’t miss it!

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