ARTSJOURNAL weblog-December 2009
by Doug Ramsey
James Weidman, Three Worlds (Inner Circle). No doubt because he has devoted much of his career to accompanying singers, pianist Weidman's public image lags behind his talent and his respect in the jazz community. His stunning work with Joe Lovano has helped to bring him to wider attention. This intriguing album may do more. The quintet pieces with reedman Marty Ehrlich and the shaggy-dog trombone of Ray Anderson are the most spectacular and entertaining, but Weidman's work in trio and quartet settings is equally riveting for his touch, solo construction and rhythmic chance taking. As in Lovano's band, Weidman and drummer Francisco Mela have a symbiotic relationship that may arise from ESP. All of the compositions are Weidman's but "Joshua Fit De Battle of Jericho," which lends itself nicely to an adventurous treatment by Weidman, Mela and bassist Brad Jones.
All About Jazz- November 2009
by Donald Elfman.
Three Worlds is the product of a thoughtful musical soul. Pianist James Weidman is well-versed in the traditional and modern jazz vocabulary and has found ways of deftly incorporating what's he's heard into his playing and composing. And here he adds color to his pianistics with melodica and the exotic xaphoon, a single-reed keyless bamboo wind instrument.
He's found a great assemblage of modern players to realize his various musical visions. Particularly and delightfully surprising are reedman Marty Ehrlich and trombonist Ray Anderson, who manage to inject their very adventurous ideas into what might be more conventional settings but never are. On "Drop Zone" they play the shuffling melody over Weidman's quirky harmonic shifting and, after the leader's subtle and intimate but pointed solo, return with a short, brooding, but funky lead from Anderson and a chorus of alto lyricism from Ehrlich. And it's terrifically welcome to have vibist Jay Hoggard back again. The "you" or. "your" that he is playing to in "Theme for You" must be delightful and free-spirited.
Throughout, Weidman and bandmates are buoyed by just the right combination of pulse and melodicism from the sterling rhythm playing of Brad Jones (bass) and Francisco Mela (drums). They're never in the way and when they solo they say what they have to say - which is always about the tune in question - with succinctness and precision.
Weidman is a player who knows what he wants to say even as he tries new things. The album never settles into one thing, allowing for personal expression while also presenting a groove in all its contexts.
A valued and talented pianist, James Weidman has been a sideman and accompanist in many settings over the past 20 years; from Abbey Lincoln and Steve Coleman to Kevin Mahogany and Joe Lovano. He has also proven to be an increasingly significant bandleader and composer. His most recent CD, Three Worlds, is unquestionably his most ambitious recording to date.
On Three Worlds, Weidman performs nine of his originals plus the traditional “Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho” with his trio including Francisco Mela on drums and Brad Jones on bass. On other tracks, Weidman is found in varying configurations of quartet on two selections (with the addition of vibraphonist Jay Hoggard) and a particularly adventurous quintet on five selections (with trombonist Ray Anderson and multi-reedist Marty Ehrlich; sans Hoggard).
“I started writing for Three Worlds a couple of years before we made the recording,” recalls the pianist. “I knew conceptually how I wanted to present the music. I had just come off arranging music for a big band project of black spirituals. After touring with both Marty and Ray at various times over the years, I was actually thinking of how I could incorporate their instrumental voices into my music. I met drummer Francisco Mela through my work with Joe Lovano in 2005. He is from Cuba, and not only knows that tradition well, but he also swings. I met bassist Brad Jones through Marty and have previously played and recorded with Jay Hoggard,” continues Weidman. “For the most part, these musicians had never played my music before, but it came out exactly as I’d hoped. It was very much a musical kinship, the best of all worlds.”
James Weidman’s music fits into the modern mainstream of jazz without being predictable. With original chord changes and voicings, his mastery is demonstrated with various changes in rhythm and time. On Three Worlds, a handful of tunes showcase the trio. The swinging original “Mirrored Images,” the exuberant “Razz 2.0,” and the soulful “Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho,” make Three Worlds a program which gets better with each repeated listening.