Feb 16, 2022
Musicians who are “on the scene” in New York don’t always get wider recognition with jazz fans around the country, to say nothing of the world, unless they are lucky enough to constantly record. In the case of pianist Michael Weiss, he’s been busy playing in and around New York, but he hasn’t recorded as a leader since 2003’s Soul Journey.
Persistence -Weiss’ fifth recording as a leader and first on the Cellar Live label - brings together all the qualities that have made him such a valued member of New York’s jazz community since the 1980s.
The band Weiss has put together features the irrepressible saxophonist Eric Alexander, along with a rhythm section of Paul Gill and Pete Van Nostrand. Deeply swinging and emotionally rewarding, the recording features four vibrant originals by Weiss that are rich with memorable melody, harmonic color, rhythmic vitality, savvy pacing, and expressive detail. Weiss also arranged four standards that reveal his ability to put a thoughtful individual stamp on diverse material by Thelonious Monk, Fats Waller, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Jimmy Van Heusen.
Weiss has forged a formidable career working in the bands of jazz legends, most notably Johnny Griffin and Frank Wess, but also Art Farmer, Charles McPherson, George Coleman, Jimmy Heath, and Lou Donaldson. He was a longtime member of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and toured with the Jazztet and Mingus Epitaph Orchestra.
Podcast 881 is my conversation with Michael, as we discuss his lengthy absence from recording as a bandleader, how he adapts classic tunes by Monk and Jobim for the quartet, and his tour dates in his native Texas this month. He also pays tribute to the late Frank Wess, given the centennial of his birth last month. Musical selections include Thelonius Monk’s “Epistrophy” and his original tune “Apres Vous.”