Soul Journey features an exceptional program of nine intriguing compositions by Michael Weiss, a composer and bandleader of the first rank, who has forged a broad-minded aesthetic that marries deep respect for the jazz tradition with a modernist's commitment to make it new. Soul Journey eschews the current vogue for homage and tribute albums and recycling the conventions of yesterday in favor of carving a personal sound world with the tools of melodic integrity, harmonic richness, rhythmic surprise, expressive detail, formal ingenuity, intellectual honesty and emotional depth. Weiss isn't afraid to reference the past, but his music exists totally in the present.
Michael Weiss - piano, Fender Rhodes
Ryan Kisor - trumpet, flugelhorn
Steve Wilson - alto saxophone
Steve Davis - trombone
Paul Gill - bass
Joe Farnsworth - drums
Daniel Sadownick - percussion
All songs composed, arranged and produced by Michael Weiss and published by Nepenthean Music Co. (BMI)
Recorded and mixed by Joe Ferla at Avatar Studios, NYC
Mastered by Paul Zinman at SoundByte Productions, NYC
What is most striking about Soul Journey is the diversity of the compositions, the dexterity which Weiss develops his materials and the way the forms and improvisations merge into an organic whole. Take for example, El Camino, which won the Grand Prize in the 2000 BMI/Thelonious Monk Institute's Composition Competition. Weiss' expert tailoring fully exploits the sonorous potential of the trumpet, alto saxophone and trombone front-line and a fully interactive rhythm section. El Camino blends south-of-the-border rhythms with an active bassline, vivid harmonies and a lithe, through-composed melody adorned by an introduction, interludes, coda and background figures adding spice to the improvised solos.
"What's going to drive jazz forward is a greater integration of composition and improvisation rather than the same old head-solos-head format," says Weiss. "I want to keep the music fresh and interesting."
About the Artist
After moving to New York City in 1982 from his native Dallas, by way of Indiana University, pianist Michael Weiss quickly found work with Jon Hendricks, Lou Donaldson, Slide Hampton and the Junior Cook/Bill Hardman Quintet. In 1987 Weiss became Johnny Griffin's regular pianist and has since recorded four albums with him. He has also worked with Art Farmer, Charles McPherson, George Coleman, Frank Wess, Jimmy Heath, the Jazztet, Pepper Adams, the Mingus Epitaph Orchestra, Gary Bartz and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. In addition, he has appeared with Wynton Marsalis on "Live From Lincoln Center" on PBS and "Making the Music" on NPR. Other radio and TV appearances include NPR's "Jazzset," "Piano Jazz" and the CBS news digest program, "Nightwatch."
Weiss has recorded three previous albums as a leader, all of which have been hailed by the critics. His debut, "Presenting Michael Weiss" (Criss Cross) was named a Stereo Review Best Recording of the Month in October 1987. "Power Station" (DIW) made the Fanfare Critic's Want List in 1998 and was a Top Five pick in Jazz Times in 1998. "Milestones" (SteepleChase) received four and a half stars from Downbeat.
Weiss' composition skills have been recognized by Chamber Music America, which awarded him a prestigious New Works: Creation and Presentation grant. In 2006 Weiss' quintet debuted at the Village Vanguard. The New York Times said that Weiss' "strong sense of leadership and organization, manifesting itself most clearly in his compositions." Weiss was a "confident and sparkling presence on piano" playing with "sensitivity and logic, along with crisp control."
Reviews of SOUL JOURNEY
"Weiss is able to mesh simple, airy phrasing and intricate melodies to create a rich, full-bodied, expressive jazz statement. His timeless playing reflects - but does not pander to - a rich history of legendary pianists. Weiss' playing is warm and earthy and, as a result, "Soul Journey" is downright terrific. You do not have to be a jazz fan to appreciate this exceptional disc." - Boston Herald
"...the songs simply smoke." - Detroit Free Press
"...considerable talent as a writer and arranger. Weiss has a rich palette of composing devices at his command, and his ebullient piano constantly buoys this recording. - Downbeat
"Well the year is four months away from ending, and I think I've comfortably selected my "CD of the Year" already. Soul Journey is about as close to perfection as a recording can get. These compositions stand up to the quality of Wayne Shorter (who in my opinion is probably the greatest composer of our generation). This sextet (occasionally and effectively bolstered by a percussionist) has a SOUND. The interpretations on this are so CLEAN, the horn section almost sounds like a single multiphonic instrument. Through clever and sophisticated arranging, each tune on this CD sounds fresh and unlike the previous. Crisp ensembles alone, however do not necessarily good jazz make. Each soloist here more than pulls his weight. Michael himself is a fleet-fingered pianist who demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of all the masters who have come before him, without consciously emulating any one. You really have to hear this cat. Just to add icing on the cake, the production is superb. The recording and mixing are as good as you might hear from any major label and recording studio. The key here is a combination of remarkable musicianship combined with old-fashioned hard work. You don't put a CD like this out without a lot of sweat arranging, rehearsing, mixing and remixing. This should be in everyone's collection of good contemporary jazz, and if there is truly justice in our world, a Grammy nominee." - Jazz Improv
"Weiss gives us, in his fourth album, perfectly constructed music, well thought out from beginning to end. Nine originals span a wide aesthetic spectrum, while rooted in the great tradition of postbop and latin jazz. They show a maturity of writing, superbly executed by the musicians, as well as a perfect osmosis between the different styles that coexist in jazz. Firmly in control of this roaring machine, Michael Weiss imposes himself, discreetly but effectively, as one of the most interesting pianists in the mainstream. Here, complexity and swing get along. A delight." - Jazz Hot
"Soul Journey shows contemporary writers and players can play, for lack of a better term, mainstream jazz that's forceful, distinctive and exciting. The music on Soul Journey has warmth, integrity and above all, originality." - JazzTimes
"This is refreshing music...a five-star recording." - Portland Skanner
"a fresh, imaginative listening experience. Each of the 9 selections is unusual and entertaining. The Cheshire Cat is one of the most joyful and original jazz compositions to come along in years." - jazzreview.com
"Polished arrangements combined with shipshape soloing is the modus operandi behind Soul Journey." - New Music Box