Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ezra Weiss Sextet: Before You Know It

Roark Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Before You Know It

My first exposure to pianist/composer Ezra Weiss occurred in 2009, when I reviewed Alice In Wonderland, an album he specifically designed to expose young children to jazz. The idea was excellent; the music and musicians were outstanding.

Before You Know It is Weiss’ newest album, and he and his sextet continue to produce some genuinely fine stuff. Weiss composed most of these songs; the exceptions are George and Ira Gershwin’s “A Foggy Day,” and John Coltrane’s “Alabama.”

Weiss is supported by Farnell Newton (trumpet), John Nastos (alto sax), Devin Phillips (tenor sax), Jon Shaw (bass) and Christopher Brown (drums).

They’ve worked together in numerous jazz clubs throughout the States, but home is Portland, Oregon. As a result, this album was recorded live at Portland’s Ivories Jazz Lounge. As usually is the case, an audience brings out the best in the artists. 

The number of balladic tempos featured during the set also is refreshing. Yes, Weiss & Co. deliver some real swingers — “The Crusher” and “The Five AM Strut” are noteworthy — but the musicians truly shine during the gentler charts for “Winter Machine,” “Don’t Need No Ticket” and “A Foggy Day.”

Pay attention to Mr. Weiss and his friends. This is another of the many fine groups that make the Pacific Northwest a jazz Mecca.

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