Sunday, March 13, 2016

Dan Weiss - Sixteen: Drummers Suite (Pi Recordings, 2016)

Drummer and composer Dan Weiss transcribed specific rhythmic passages of some of his favorite drummers and used them as the basis of each part of this suite, also imagining the lives of each drummer and taking that into account when developing the compositions of this suite. He then used sixteen-piece big band with wide ranging instrumentation to bring the music to life. “Elvin” opens the album, with not only bass and drums, but synthesizers as well. Synth and electric keyboard rebound around the music, before Weiss asserts himself with a polished and firm drum solo. Worldless vocals soar, and horns begin to fill the musical space, and even handclaps are added to the rhythm. The synth and drum opening of “Max” is met by a colorful swirl of winds, vocalese and more electronics. The palate that Weiss can draw from is vast and he uses it very creatively, with his drums underpinning squalls of electronics and voice that can become discomforting at times but works well to serve the overall nature of the music. There is a thick solo bass opening to “Tony” before further instruments are able to build in and fill out the sound. Percussive piano reverberates throughout this performance that is like a piston pumping and it serves to lift the horns and voice into a powerful combination of music, followed by a deep and confident saxophone solo. “Philly Joe” has a nice combination of tablas and drumming serving as bedrock while the horns and female voices build momentum. The pace builds with the larger instrumentation and voice building urgently with pounding dark piano and probing organ. The album is concluded with the very lengthy “Ed,” which develops as a mini-suite of its own, with one saxophone and then several building further with bass and vocals. The piano builds in to develop a complex rhythm for the music and the full band comes together to create a very majestic sound that goes beyond jazz to encompass avant-garde classical and progressive rock as well. In a sense you could say that this is a tribute album to the great drummers of the past, but it is a very exciting and unusual one. Instead of a re-hashing of the honoree’s music, Weiss uses slices of their in the moment improvisations, and adds the research into the lives and careers of these musicians he has conducted to create highly original music that serves as a tribute to their accomplishments as well as his own. Sixteen: Drummers Suite - amazon.com

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