For the first time in nearly 15 years, pianist and composer Michael Weiss will lead a sextet at Smalls. He’s performed often at the club since its inception in 1994, most recently leading a trio last year with the legendary drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath. But from 1996-2001 Weiss’ primary ensemble was a full-bodied, three-horn sextet that became the vehicle for interpreting his increasingly ambitious compositions. Along the way Weiss would add percussionist Daniel Sadownick to the mix for performances at the Detroit Jazz Festival, Smithsonian Institution, Blue Note and Jazz Gallery among other venues. All of this action culminated in the critically acclaimed recording “Soul Journey” in 2003 on the Sintra label. Now Weiss is revisiting the sextet format with trumpeter Bruce Harris, alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo, trombonist Steve Davis, bassist David Wong and drummer Jason Brown. The repertoire will include some of Weiss’ still-fresh material from “Soul Journey” as well as new compositions and arrangements.
With influences as varied as Scriabin, Wayne Shorter and Led Zepellin, Weiss' compositions focus on extended forms, thematic development and attention to detail. "A greater percentage of composition in the mix is crucial to keeping jazz moving forward," says Weiss. "The solo after solo bit on the same chord changes is becoming a worn out model. This doesn’t mean giving up on jazz’s foundations. I’m interested in incorporating improvised solos within a piece like characters in a play or perhaps as the narrator between scenes. I’m always looking for ways in which to expand my material.”
Weiss was awarded the BMI/Monk Institute Composers Competition grand prize in 2000 for his piece, “El Camino,” which appears on “Soul Journey.” The award was presented to Weiss by Wayne Shorter. Weiss was a recipient of the Doris Duke/Chamber Music America New Works grant in 2003.
A native of Dallas, Texas, pianist and composer Michael Weiss’s extensive resume includes work with Johnny Griffin, Art Farmer, Frank Wess, Slide Hampton, Wynton Marsalis, Jimmy Heath, the Jazztet, Lou Donaldson, Charles McPherson, Von Freeman, George Coleman, Joe Wilder, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Junior Cook and Bill Hardman. Weiss made his Village Vanguard debut as a leader in 2006 with his quintet. Reviewing the ensemble's performance, the New York Times noted that Weiss "demonstrated a strong sense of leadership and organization" and was "a confident, sparkling presence on piano... exhibiting sensitivity and logic, along with crisp control." Weiss has appeared on CBS-TV's "Nightwatch," PBS' "The City of Jazz," NPR’s "Jazzset," "Making the Music" and "Piano Jazz." Weiss was the second prize winner in the 1989 Thelonious Monk Piano Competition.
Weiss has recorded four albums as a leader, including “Soul Journey” (Sintra), “Milestones” (Steeplechase), “Power Station” (DIW) and “Presenting Michael Weiss” (Criss Cross). He has also recorded widely as a sideman, including four CDs with Johnny Griffin and dates with Charles McPherson, Frank Wess, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Louis Smith, Ronnie Cuber and others. For more information visit michaelweiss.info
Reviews of Soul Journey
“shrewd writing and arranging skills as clearly in view as his sleek piano work” – The New Yorker
“Weiss has a rich palette of composing devices at his command.” – Downbeat
“Soul Journey has warmth, integrity and above all, originality.” – JazzTimes
“About as close to perfection as a recording can get....If there is truly justice in our world, this should be a Grammy nominee.” – Jazz Improv
“It’s not often that you find jazz compositions of the caliber offered up on Soul Journey. [It] goes far beyond your typical mainstream fare. Weiss is a vital talent with something important to say.” – All About Jazz
“This music lives and breathes freshness and exhilarating originality. The individual selections are strong and attractive enough, to still be played as jazz vehicles in 10, 20, or even 50 year’s time.” – Jazz Journal
“Weiss’ compositions take on different shapes, great complexity and fresh perspectives.” – Washington Post
“The songs simply smoke." – Detroit Free Press