Jazz CD Reviews

Dan Weiss – Fourteen [TrackList follows] – Pi Recordings

A big band but not big band jazz.

Published on June 4, 2014

Dan Weiss – Fourteen [TrackList follows] – Pi Recordings

Dan Weiss – Fourteen [TrackList follows] – Pi Recordings PI52, 37:19 [3/25/14] ***1/2:

(Dan Weiss – drums (tracks 1-6), vocal recitation (track 3), clapping (track 2), piano (tracks 1-7); Jacob Sacks – piano; Matt Mitchell – glockenspiel (tracks 1-2, 5-6), piano (track 5), organ (tracks 1, 4, 6), clapping (track 2); Thomas Morgan – acoustic bass (tracks 1-6); Miles Ozazaki – electric & classical guitar (tr. 1-4, 6-7), clapping (tr. 2); David Binney – alto saxophone (tr. 1-6), clapping (tr. 2); Ohad Talmor – tenor saxophone (tr. 1-6); Jacob Garchik – trombone (tr. 1-6), tuba (tr. 7); Ben Gerstein – trombone (tr. 1-6); Lana Cenćić, Judith Berkson, Maria Neckam – voice (tr. 1-3, 5-7); Katie Andrews – harp (tr. 1-2, 6-7); Stephen Celluci – percussion (tr. 6), clapping (tr. 2))

When mentioning a jazz album with 14 musicians and 15 instruments, one may assume it might be a big band jazz project. Cast aside preconceived notions, though, with drummer Dan Weiss’ fifth record, Fourteen. This is an ambitious, through-composed work apportioned into seven parts, which joins jazz improvisation with an amalgam of Asian/Indian inspirations, hunks of hard rock, moments of minimalism, portions of progressive rock, nicks of neo-classicism and more.

Dan Weiss (not to be confused with trumpeter David Weiss) began writing the music on this 37-minute collection in 2010, originally as melodic ideas which grew into a grander development. Initially, Weiss was only going to involve close friends such as guitarist Miles Ozazaki (who has worked with Miguel Zenón, and Chris Potter), pianist Jacob Sacks (his résumé includes Eddie Henderson, Christian McBride and Brian Blade) and bassist Thomas Morgan (Paul Motian, David Binney and Pete Robbins). Weiss’ compositions gradually elongated until a broader vision took over. The result is a tonal palette with many components and instruments woven into the musical fabric. Weiss discusses aspects of his latest outing in a four-minute, making-of video.

The nearly eight-minute “Part One” starts with Sacks’ moody piano solo, and within a minute the track extends with several other performers, including wordless vocals which act here and elsewhere as instrumental implements. An auditory viscosity is established, where horns, glockenspiel, two guitars (classical and later a shredding electric) and harp add to a layered and fiery repetition. By the conclusion, contemplation circles into cacophony. The music flows seamlessly into “Part Two,” where Ozazaki’s genteel classical guitar, Katie Andrews’ harp and Matt Mitchell’s glockenspiel carry a transcendent counterpoint. Weiss’ drums and a wordless vocal trio create an offset percussive cadence, which in turn is supplemented by hand-clapping rendered in the palmas style (a basis for improvisation in Flamenco) which has an overlapping beat. The general effect of “Part Two” is something akin to early Philip Glass.

Weiss has studied Indian classical music for two decades, and that discipline informs much of his previous releases. While that field of scholarship is downplayed on Fourteen, it is not absent and shows up unexpectedly, such as during the daring “Part Three,” where Weiss briefly incorporates an East Indian konnakul vocal into his arrangement. Another highpoint of “Part Three” are David Binney’s alto sax and Ohad Talmor’s tenor sax, which blast away at each other. There’s nothing discreet about this cut. “Part Four” is equally abrasive. Mitchell switches to B-3 organ, while Okazaki fuzzes up his roughened electric guitar. Meanwhile, twin trombones and the two saxes hurtle along through Weiss’ prog-rock-like arrangement.

Weiss has other cards up his sleeve, though. The sublime “Part Five” has a low-register, multi-horn exchange, with subtle percussion comprising glockenspiel, harmonized nonverbal vocals, shifting drums (Weiss uses his sticks on cymbals with a light touch) and tinkling piano notes. And while that same attractive configuration melts into “Part Six,” the restraint is quickly abandoned and is replaced by a darker and noisier design dominated by brasher horns, cascading drum patterns, amped guitar and harshly strummed harp. Weiss echoes the ethereal attraction of “Part Five” on the final segment, “Part Seven,” accentuated by spare piano notes, Jacob Garchik’s low-humming tuba (which seems to be run through a digital effects processor), and Ozazaki’s delicate acoustic guitar. The concluding piece provides an optimistic ending, like an olive branch found after a long deluge. Dan Weiss’ Fourteen is beautiful and brutal, resplendent and intense. The diverse influences, permeable and repeating motifs, and cross-genre music probably won’t appeal to traditional jazz fans, but those who enjoy material not compounded by boundaries may find plenty to appreciate.

TrackList: Part One; Part Two; Part Three; Part Four; Part Five; Part Six; Part Seven

—Doug Simpson




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