by Bea Willis
Alex Weitz is a saxophonist and composer who cut his teeth at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. This impressive jazz musician’s talent has grown exponentially since that time. March of 2013 saw Weitz’ debut release Chroma. On his latest release Luma, he furthers his legacy as an outstanding saxophonist and composer. Weitz’s saxophone playing is a blend of great ideas, intense technical facility, crisp and clear tone, and swinging time, all delivered with a penetrating emotionalism. Appearing on this set of nine Weitz originals are three likeminded musicians: pianist Tal Cohen, bassist Ben Tiberio and drummer Michael Piolet.
These gentlemen are as tight in their playing together as fraternal brothers. These musicians are not recent “jazz school” graduates offering watered down varieties of the music of their heroes, instead they are forging ahead with strong originals and their own powerful voices on their respective instruments. They play beautifully together on Luma. “Did You Know” is the opener. Weitz’ strong saxophone sound is right in your face, with a rhythmic opening line, followed by a composition that exhibits maturity in its development and form. “Did You Know” has multiple feel changes and band hits to keep it moving along.
“Outer Noise” is a modal up-tempo burner. The melody exhibits fascinating rhythmic interest and feels with memorable lines. The whole track takes off as Weitz builds his solo the intensity catapults. The drum work by Piolet is stunning, Weitz’s and Piolet’s connection has something to do with the fire this track offers. Heartfelt solos all around, the group keeps the interest high.
“Song for Peace. Pt. 1” is a soulful ballad with a beautiful melody that again has a form that is entertaining and musically sound. Weitz’s playing creates a singing quality for the melody, but once the band arrives at the solo, they build with Weitz and Cohen’s accompaniment is a big part of success on this tune. Tiberio’s solo is melodic and moves around the register of his bass nicely. Piolet’s brush work is very effective too. Weitz is a generous leader, allowing each player to have their shine in the spotlight, but when Weitz takes the spotlight, he proves why he is the lead player on this date, with no question in his agility and prowess.
Another strong track from all concerned is “Azalea,” all players are locked tightly and swinging as woven as they can be! Just listen to Tiberio and Piolet hook up and propel the swing. Weitz is ripping it up, as if his life depended on it! This track shows the full power of the quartet, strong melodies during Weitz’s solo and the whole band cooks through the solo, providing an excellent foundation for Weitz to showcase his diversity as a player.
This is a top-notch album from a band that could not be any more in sync. Pushing their music forward, their own way, with their own style. The recording is clear, warm and swinging with each track overflowing with inspired playing.
Tracks to sample first: “Did You Know,” “Outer Noise,” “Song for Peace. Pt. 1” and “Azalea.” The song to take a chance on is “Reminiscence.”