Pianist-composer-arranger Ezra Weiss lived in Portland for a short spell about a year or two ago, gained respect of the local cats and moved back to New York.
This record's music has its storyline rooted in Greek mythology. When Hades abducted Demeter's daughter, the earth was plunged into darkness and icy coldness. A compromise was reached so that when spring arrived, this character, Persephone, would emerge from the underworld of her husband to once again be with her mother.
All fine and good. But the music here is all present-day Ezra Weiss, a man rooted not in some long-ago mythology, but in bebop. His music (all the compositions are his) reflects the modern and neo-free. Weiss' use of three horn players is his genius on this recording. Michael Philip Mossman is heard on trumpet and flugelhorn, Antonio Hart plays alto and flute and Kelly Roberge performs on tenor, clarinet and bass clarinet. The harmonic possibilities are virtually unlimited.
As one listens from track to track, a wonderment emerges as to what direction the facile Weiss imagination is going to take us on the next track. Drummers Billy Hart and Jason Brown share duties. Bassist Leon Lee Dorsey creates a sometimes dense and dark mood, like on the opening of "The Dancer." That mood is further enhanced by Hart's alto, which leads right back to Dorsey's bass.
"Persephone" is a release that should be heard by everyone, but especially by those who believe and say, "Today's musicians are just playing the same old stuff."
I say, "Oh yeah? Listen to Ezra Weiss."
"I'M WITH THE BAND"
Vocalist Tierney Sutton captured me with the first notes on track one as she introduces "Softly as In a Morning Sunrise," using her voice like a flute.
But she wasn't finished with me. This woman has style and is seemingly fearless as she makes each song a glorious adventure. She takes on "S'Wonderful" at a furious tempo, innovating all the while. "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" is another winner, using another great arrangement and excellent backing from her band, which includes pianist Christian Jacob, bassists Trey Henry and Kevin Axt and drummer Ray Brinker.
She takes familiar standards and imprints them with her versatile styling and leaves us with a collection of burnished gold chestnuts. Some of the tunes are "The Lady is a Tramp," "Devil May Care," "Two For the Road," "East of the Sun," and "Cheek to Cheek."
"BLUES ALLEY — SECOND SET"
This is a terrific piano trio recording with Hod O'Brien in front of a fine rhythm section of bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Kenny Washington.
O'Brien is a highly skilled articulator of melodies who never loses his swinging sensibilities. He pays tribute to legends like Sonny Rollins as he performs Rollins' "Pent Up House" and Randy Weston, when he plays "Little Niles." One highlight of several is Drummond's fine bass work on "In a Sentimental Mood." It merits a place on a "Best of Ray Drummond," should that ever occur.
O'Brien closes with an Ellington-Strayhorn medley of "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me" and "Take the A Train." We get to hear some wonderful single-note execution as well as emphatic block chording.