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Three Worlds

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Album Review

James Weidman's immense talent as a jazz pianist has been largely ignored for far too long, and since his apprenticeship as the music director for Abbey Lincoln 20 years, has only scratched the surface of his broad-ranging capabilities. This long overdue third album has him in three formats — trio, quartet, and quintet — with challenged musicians like Ray Anderson, Marty Ehrlich, and Jay Hoggard, far from run of the mill, mainstream jazz performers. It's smart music that Weidman has written for sure — tricky to handle and more difficult to play, considering it falls just outside the straight-ahead continuum. Where not overtly intellectual, it does display how broad a color palette Weidman is capable of utilizing to create stunning, swinging jazz that lifts his talent to a higher level while also being very accessible. Ehrlich is always a standout on alto saxophone as he demonstrates during "Mirrored Images," taking charge of the slightly sideways swing and ribald melody line with his tart woodwind, pushing the pianist to a great solo of his own. An appropriately titled "Drop Zone" has the participants of the quintet plopping down chords and horn phrases from the sky, parachuting to hit a grounded target perfectly. The most progressive piece is "Razz 2.0," where Weidman's melodica and Ehrlich's clarinet shoot out choppy lines urging a march like rhythm from the excellent young drummer Francisco Mela, and a bawdy trombone blurt-out by Anderson. Straight-ahead with no reservations, "Theme for You" recalls the Jazz Messengers without a doubt, a bright beauty of a hard bop tune that has the potential to be a standard in due time. Hoggard's vibraphone is in and the horns lay out for "Questful," considerably quieter in a light Brazilian tick-tock pulse, while a dark, sostenuto intro preludes an even more composed and relaxed pace identifying "Our Journey" in its Zen melody from 6/8 to well swung waltz mode. Trio tracks with Mela and bassist Brad Jones include the ultimately soulful "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" in a fully extrapolated piano excursion above a funky groove, but at his most emotionally moving and compelling, "A World Within" gives listeners Weidman's full range at the height of his powers. It is certain many listeners will pay attention to this date for the extraordinary sidemen, but Weidman is the musician commanding the spotlight. His individual playing is so marvelous on every level, whether as composer (he wrote all but one of these tracks), accompanist, comping pianist, soloist extraordinaire, or bandleader carrying the day for these groupings. If you enjoy the brilliant artistry of those like John Hicks or James Williams, it's way past time to get on the James Weidman bandwagon, hitched to the comet's tail like presence of one of the great modern jazz pianists of now. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

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Three Worlds, James Weidman
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Nov 03, 2009

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