David Weiss – When Words Fail
(Motéma Music 233849. CD Review by Andy Boeckstaens)
David Weiss is a trumpeter whose impact is not immediate, but he makes his presence felt. On the first occasions I saw him – in London and New York – he stood alongside Freddie Hubbard, and calmly played the parts that the ailing master could no longer manage. Amongst other groups, he also offers a benignly guiding hand to The Cookers, the seven-piece supergroup that he organised shortly before Hubbard’s death.
Weiss is most distinctive at the head of an ensemble in which his own intelligent, complex tunes are interpreted, and When Words Fail reconvenes five of the musicians who were on his first sextet CD as a leader 12 years ago. This new recording comes after a period of great loss for Weiss. His overwhelming sadness is clear, yet the music also carries the seeds of optimism and is cautiously exuberant in places.
The father of Jana Herzen, the founder of Motéma Music, recently died, and Loss is for her. There is a measured contribution from the leader, but the solo by alto saxophonist Myron Walden is particularly striking. He’s the most outstanding instrumentalist on this album and his keening, squeezed, twisted howl is prominently featured.
Passage into Eternity is for the family of six-year-old Ana Grace Márquez-Greene – the daughter of saxophonist Jimmy Greene – who was tragically killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. The track contains passionate solos by Weiss and Marcus Strickland on tenor sax.
Pianist Xavier Davis and bass player Dwayne Burno work together closely on this recording, and the moody title track is bookended by a vamp by them. Burno’s death at 43 – just three weeks after this session – came as a shock to the band, and Weiss’s sleevenote reveals a particular fondness for a colleague that he knew from the beginning of his career.
The Intrepid Hub – a reference to Hubbard’s The Intrepid Fox – uses a couple of compositional devices by Weiss’s old sparring partner. Its fiery, bustling urgency is appropriate, and drummer E.J.Strickland is in his element in this setting.
The two contrasting pieces that are not from Weiss’s pen are by Britons. John Taylor’s White Magic, based on Herbie Hancock’s Riot, is a thrilling roller-coaster ride, and Lullaby for a Lonely Child an affecting ballad by Karl Jenkins.
The ebb and flow of MJ is notable for the shining entry of the young Australian guitarist Ben Eunson, who appears on only one other track (and whose name is unfortunately mis-spelt on the cover). Wayward – the main theme of a much larger work by Weiss – starts with a gentle fanfare, builds in intensity and has another arresting passage by Walden.
Hans Christian Andersen wrote “Where Words Fail, Music Speaks”. As Weiss approaches his 50th birthday, his words certainly do not fail him. He talks of pain and desolation, but explains also that the music is “about rebirth, hope and finding your way back”. The beautiful sounds on this album eloquently convey that healing power.