AMN Reviews: Dan Weiss – Fourteen (2014; Pi Recordings)

pi52_270Dan Weiss is a New York based drummer who has appeared as a sideman with Matt Mitchell, Tony Malaby, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Miguel Zenon and Kenny Werner, among many others. He has also released a series of recordings under his own name, of which this is the latest. Unlike his other offerings, however, Fourteen is a thoroughly-composed, seven-part suite for – you guessed it – fourteen musicians. Weiss’s cohorts include Miles Okazaki, Jacob Sacks, Thomas Morgan, David Binney, and Jacob Garchik.

The album can be roughly categorized as modern, big-band avant-jazz. It is horn-heavy, which is not surprising given Weiss’s leanings. But, significant roles are played by electric guitar, piano, and voice. Harp, organ, and Weiss’s percussion round out the group.

Fourteen is more than just a sum of all these parts. For instance, the album kicks off with slightly contrapuntal piano. Later tracks make heavy use of chanted vocals, with shades of Philip Glass‘s Koyaanisqatsi toward the end of the Part Two as well as the beginning of Part Six. At other points, Weiss’s charts let loose free jazz blowing, as a multi-horn and guitar attack create massive walls of sound.

Comparisons of Weiss to Darcy James Argue‘s efforts are probably going to happen. These comparisons are not completely off base, as Weiss takes a similar holistic approach to large-scale composing, while leaving just enough room for interesting soloing. These solos, however, are so deeply integrated into the composition that they appear to be intentional rather than off the cuff.  Given how well this effort works, that’s a very good thing.

Weiss has made his mark with this release.  It doesn’t necessarily swing, but it doesn’t need to – it’s too busy blowing you away.

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