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.
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.
Most recently, Weiss' composition skills were recognized by Chamber Music America, which awarded him a prestigious New Works: Creation and Presentation grant for 2003.