There are many ways to make an uplifting album, but one that
manages to convey its deeply personal sources of inspiration, while at the same
time welcoming the listener into the music, is surely one of the most
satisfying. So it is with this second outing for the tenor saxophone player
Alex Weitz’s highly commendable quartet recording Luma. Here is an album
that offers pieces inspired by real-world ideas and the intellect, inextricably
rooted in the concreteness of human existence with unrestrained flights of
improvisation acting as the glue that holds it all together. All the while one
has a sense that ‘ideas’ and ‘intellect’ seem to drive what appear to be living
soundtracks infused with the kind of heady imagination that transforms their
resonances into a series of vivacious musical adventures that may also be
construed as one extended one, perhaps. However the experience is perceived,
the fact that it is cinematic in an epic sort of way is inescapable. This also
means that each of the pieces though not necessarily connected by theme, are
certainly one of transcendental, spiritual kind at any rate. And, as it was
with Mr. Weitz’ previous recording, Chroma, it is impossible not to be
knocked out by the sheer creative firepower of the artist.
There is a predominantly melancholic, or at least
contemplative, cast to the set of 9 pieces or movements (depending on which
camp you happen to fall into). At any given time Alex Weitz engages pianist Tal
Cohen, bassist Ben Tiberio and drummer Michael Piolet – together or separately
– as he intersperses ensemble passages with soloing or duo conversations
between himself and one or all of the other musicians. Together with the other
musician(s) Mr. Weitz roams the musical topography of the composition mining
its theme with startling short-form improvisations. Ideas are trussed, then
released and shred; musical thoughts and viewpoints are pursued in the spur of
the moment as well as after pausing from contemplation. As always the results
are magnificent (How about the two-part Song
for Peace, for instance?) and even when completely invented almost like
out-of-body musical experiences they are anchored in what seems to be the here
and now. Throughout the performance Alex Weitz’s playing is intimate,
restrained, reflective, introspective and deceptively simple, moulding myriad
disparate sources into a beautiful and meaningful whole. Through it all, there
are also both orchestral arrangements and voicings that are invariably rooted
in swing – no matter how subtly the latter characteristic may be suggested.
With Luma – as with Chroma – Alex Weitz has
solidified his reputation as a young musician with an accomplished knowledge of
history and of where he not only fits in, but where he can ride with this
knowledge. He is wise beyond his years as a musician and a tenor saxophonist.
And if this latter extension of his being provides a suitable outlet for his
virtuosity, it also gives great scope to his artistry. Mr. Weitz uses very
little tremolo, his characteristic sound is clean and dry and when he gives us
the histrionics of the tenor saxophone, they are elegant, forceful, seemingly
weightless and always his own.
Tracks: Did You
Know; Outer Noise; Song For Peace – Part 1; Song For Peace – Part 2; Let It Go;
Luma; Equilibrium; Azalea; Reminiscence.
Weitz: saxophone; Tal Cohen: piano; Ben Tiberio: bass; Michael Piolet: drums.