For trumpeter, composer, arranger, bandleader David Weiss music is everything, his raison d'etre. So, after a year of profound loss, he came to the conclusion that writing music was perhaps the best, perhaps the only, solution for him to express his feelings for his suffering friends, and for his own losses; a way to reflect on what transpired during this difficult time. It is Weiss' hope that with When Words Fail (out on Motema Music, May 20, 2014) he and his bandmates could tap into the possibility of their music to express empathy, and harness the opportunity to take the listener on a journey; providing some solace along the way. Perhaps, When Words Fail can be embraced as an elegy of sorts. A lament that is about the pain, desolation and hopelessness of loss, felt throughout the jazz community last year, albeit with a robust strain of hope intertwined in the compositions.
Weiss elaborates, "the last year or so has been a time of profound loss for me and a lot of my close friends and acquaintances. Some of these losses have been very public and horrific. These were the themes that were swimming through my head as I put the final touches on the music for this CD and began to rehearse it. But, ideally, it's also about lifting one out of that world, so it should also be about rebirth, hope and finding your way back. The music on When Words Fail is about acknowledging your pain but also about finding a way out, or at the very least, providing a temporary escape. I don't want to say that this is what I strive for or set out to do when composing, but I do hope that this is what the end result of my endeavors will encompass."
David Weiss, born in New York City, has been a major catalyst and creator of some of the most critically acclaimed and respected jazz to have been released over the years. In his various roles of trumpeter, composer, arranger, producer, talent-scout, historian and bandleader - he currently leads The Cookers, The New Jazz Composers Octet, Endangered Species, Point of Departure, and the David Weiss Sextet - it is certainly not an exaggeration to call Weiss a jazz renaissance man. Weiss, featured on over eighty recordings, was also the creative force behind the revitalized careers of Freddie Hubbard, Charles Tolliver, and others. Not to mention his affiliation with many esteemed members of the avant-garde community, including Muhal Richard Abrams, Kenny Wheeler, Butch Morris and John Zorn.
When Words Fail is the latest project from the prolific bandleader who has really hit his stride lately, releasing more than nine critically acclaimed albums by five singular ensembles in the past six years: The New Jazz Composers Octet -The Turning Gate (Weiss' 2008 Motema debut); three tour-de-force albums by the jazz supergroup, The Cookers -Warriors (JLP 2010), Cast The First Stone (Plus Loin 2011) and Believe (their Motema debut in 2012); David Weiss & Point of Departure's two live albums on Sunnyside, Snuck In (2010) and Snuck Out (2011), and the band's studio album, Venture Inward (Posi-Tone 2013); and most recently, Weiss' stunning tribute to Wayne Shorter ("One of the best records, jazz or otherwise, of 2013"-eMusic), Endangered Species: The Music of Wayne Shorter (Motema 2013). In addition to the release of When Words Fail, 2014 will see the continued ascent of The Cookers, with a highly anticipated Motema release coming this September to be supported by a major international tour.
For the recording of When Words Fail the award-winning, artist reassembled his "original band", The David Weiss Sextet, featuring his original band-mates (once fledgling artists, and now proven jazz stalwarts), Marcus Strickland, Myron Walden, Xavier Davis, Dwayne Burno, and E.J. Strickland (plus guitarist Ben Eunsen making his recording debut on two tracks). When Words Fail is the David Weiss Sextet's first album in almost ten years, and the long-awaited follow up to The Mirror (which John Kelman of AllAboutJazz called, "A masterpiece by any definition . . . an album that is heady in both senses of the word - intelligent and exhilarating - Weiss emerges as one of the finest artists to mine the post bop arena . . . "). This recording also marks the first time in almost a decade that Weiss has released a CD consisting mainly of new, original compositions.
Tragically, When Words Fail will stand as the last recording of the late, highly influential bassist Dwayne Burno, who passed away at age forty-three, just a week after delivering yet another stellar performance on record. "Dwayne's passing came as a shock to all of us. He was one of my co-conspirators from the beginning and was an important part of my first two bands, this one and my first, which was more of a collective, The New Jazz Composers Octet. Dwayne was one of the great talents of our time and raised the level of every bandstand he was on. He was a very supportive player who always found ways to make your music sound better. He constantly challenged you to be on top of your game and to always strive to improve yourself and as a result, he made all around him better musicians," said Weiss (in his moving liner notes which describe the details of this project in poetic fashion.)
About The Music on When Words Fail: Weiss has never dedicated a tune to anyone before but at a certain point, he explains, "it became clear to me that I had to acknowledge my time with Freddie Hubbard. The Intrepid Hub, a play on words on the classic Hub composition The Intrepid Fox, "describes Freddie to a tee as fearless and adventurous were certainly two of his many qualities," said Weiss. When Words Fail is for Dwayne Burno. In Weiss' words, "when we finished rehearsing this tune for the first time, Dwayne made a gesture towards his music and sort of nodded. This was high praise indeed from Dwayne and the only such gesture from him that day so I dedicate this one to him. MJ is about a different kind of loss entirely. It's about being too young to know what's important and when to fight for something. Wayward is a part of a much larger Weiss composition that was commissioned by the American Composers Forum's Jerome Composers Commissioning Program for Weiss' The New Jazz Composers Octet. At it's core however, was this tune, the main theme of the entire suite. "White Magic is a tune written by the British pianist John Taylor, based on the Herbie Hancock composition, Riot.
Other highlights on When Words Fail include Loss, written for Motema Music founder Jana Herzen who lost her father, Professor Leonard A. Herzenberg, this past year; Lullaby for a Lonely Child is a composition by Karl Jenkins; and the closing tune, Passage Into Eternity, dedicated to Jimmy, Nelba and Isaiah Greene, who's beautiful daughter was lost in the Sandy Hook tragedy. Weiss explains, "They have suffered one of the most horrible loses imaginable and there is no way possible for me to have even the slightest clue as to what they must be going through. The Greene's are incredibly strong and brave people of faith who are now making a difference in this world (please visit anagraceproject.org). Passage into Eternity is a phrase I borrowed from something they wrote soon after their daughter's death."