More than ten years ago, bassist/composer Noam Wiesenberg left Tel-Aviv and descended upon Boston (graduating Berklee in 2010, Magna Cum Laude in Jazz Performance), and eventually New York City, with the aspiration of playing alongside the world's greatest musicians. After many years of doing just that (with the likes of Camila Meza, Kevin Hays, Antonio Sanchez, Gilad Hekselman, Ari Hoenig, Billy Hart, Seamus Blake, Shai Maestro, Will Vinson, Uri Caine, Lage Lund, Dave Liebman and many others), the time has come to release his debut album, and his premiere as a composer and bandleader, Roads Diverge.
They say, "timing is everything". Making choices without fear of consequence can be daunting. And, in Robert Frost's famous poem "The Road Not Taken" the author stresses the importance of choosing the road less traveled. All of these factors played a significant part in the conception, production and delivery of the album you hold in your hands, Roads Diverge. "I think I have been hiding in other people's projects and music a little bit, and it feels good to make this choice for myself. I've never gone down the path of releasing my music before, so this is definitely a 'road less traveled' for me, but it feels like the right time to do it!" The album, featuring Noam Wiesenberg (bass, compositions), Philip Dizack (trumpet & FX), Immanuel Wilkins (alto sax, clarinet), Shai Maestro (piano/Fender Rhodes), Kush Abadey (drums), and special guest Dayna Stephens (tenor sax), will be released this May 18, 2018 on Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records.
"It has taken me a long time to internalize that the choice itself is what is important, the act of choosing rather than which choice to make. It is often better to choose the 'wrong' path than to remain still and safe. By making a choice you are making progress, for better or for worse, and you are allowing yourself to grow," said the bassist. "Taking the road less traveled is the only way to discover new territories, which is so true in many aspects of life, and especially when it comes to a life in jazz and improvised music. I wanted to draw attention to not only the 'roads' in this music, but also to the point where they diverge. This album is about the power of choice, and the power of making choices. This is a strong idea for me, both conceptually and personally, and I am filled with pride and joy over this project."
More on Roads Diverge: The album opens with Prelude, with Wiesenberg offering us a "glimpse" of his wonderful sound, touch and phrasing, foreshadowing Shir Le'Shir. The warm, dreamy sound underneath Wiesenberg's bass is a synth pedal on the Fender Rhodes (played by Shai Maestro).
Resfeber is an untranslatable word in Swedish that means, "the restless race of the traveler's heart before the journey begins". "I love untranslatable words. They say something about a culture that has a word that no other culture/language has. If the Inuit have fifty different words for snow, does that mean they can differentiate types of snow better than others? I tried to captured the traveler's restlessness in this composition, which comes to a peak during the horns' soli in the middle of the track."
The exquisite folk song/lullaby-like melody of Shir Le'Shir is for Wiesenberg's niece, written for her when she was born."Shir Le'Shir" means "a song for Shir." "I wanted to write a melody that would sound like a song that has lyrics. A type of a chant for what I wish for her future," expressed Wiesenberg.
Where Do We Go From Here grew out of an exercise from a composition group Wiesenberg was part of. The exercise was to write a tune using only three chords, with an option to use a fourth chord, but only once. "This enabled me to explore and exploit the melodic possibilities on top of a minimal amount of chords," explained Wiesenberg. "I wrote it in one day, and its actually one of my favorite compositions that I've written so far."
The title track Roads Diverge is about one's journey. This was strongly influenced by Wayne Shorter, with a powerful counterpoint bass line that perhaps adds some danger to the melody. There are no chord changes - the composition is strictly about voice leading and counterpoint. "I had the honor to have the great Dayna Stephens to play tenor on this track. His solo here is one of the highlights of this record in my opinion," said Wiesenberg.
Capricorn Lady was written for the bassist's wife, a Capricorn (born on the last day of the year - December 31).
Davka is a funny, very Israeli word that means "specifically" or "exactly", and is usually said with an "in your face" attitude, though sometimes also used subtly. The music (in eleven) conveys the humorous paradox in its meaning.
Melody For Ido (featuring Shai Maestro on Fender Rhodes) was written eight years ago, and is dedicated to Wiesenberg's brother, Ido. "It was one of the compositions that just came to me naturally, and was finished in a day or two," said the artist.
Closing the album is The Tourist (by Radiohead), the only non-original on the album. "This song is part of the classic album - OK Computer which was a big part of my high-school soundtrack. When I heard it again a few weeks before going into the studio, I knew I wanted to do a solo version of that song. I ended up recording three-four layers of bass using arco and pizzicato," explained Wiesenberg.
More on Noam Wiesenberg: This extraordinary musician was born into a musical family, exposed to many different genres at an early age. After twelve years of playing the cello, Wiesenberg and the double bass found each other when he was twenty. The first of several musical crossroads, he chose to focus on jazz as he was mesmerized by the capabilities of jazz musicians. Following this transition, he quickly became an integral part of the Israeli Jazz scene. His classical background informs both his composition and arranging, and has lead to collaborations with some of the top symphony orchestras in Israel, including The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, The Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion, The Haifa Symphony Orchestra, and the Israel Defense Force Education Unit Orchestra.
Wiesenberg studied composition and arranging at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, and Jazz Performance at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. He moved to the USA in 2008 to further his formal studies, and in 2010 graduated Magna Cum Laude in Jazz Performance from The Berklee College of Music in Boston. He then realized a life-long dream and moved to New York City, joining many of his friends and mentors, and becoming a much in-demand collaborator with a who's who of this music. Wiesenberg has toured Africa, India, Europe and the U.S., performing at venues including Monterey Jazz Festival, Vittoria Jazz Festival, Langnau Jazz Night, The Kennedy Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Town Hall, Jazz Standard, Blue Note, Small's Jazz Club, Smoke Jazz Club, Le Poisson Rouge, Joe's Pub and many others.
As an arranger, his extensive international work includes an arrangement for the Metropole Orkest with Grammy award winning singer Lalah Hathaway, conducted by the multiple Grammy award winner Vince Mendoza. Additionally, Wiesenberg wrote string quartet arrangements for Chilean singer-guitarist Camila Meza's new project - Camila Meza & Nectar Orchestra, and was the arranger and musical director for a recent nonet project led by luminary drummer Ari Hoenig.
Following a decade-long career as an arranger and performer of the work of other musicians, Noam Wiesenberg will release his debut album, Roads Diverge, on May 18, 2018.