One of Five Drummers to Watch (and Hear) According to NY Times Critic Ben Ratliff
Album Features: Jacob Sacks & Thomas Morgan (+ Jack Lemmon cameo)
‘Timshel’, meaning ‘Thou Mayest,’ is a Hebrew word which challenges the traditional biblical phrase, ‘Thou Shalt.’ I came across this word as I read John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and the idea behind the word was very inspiring to me. ‘Thou Mayest’ characterizes man as the maker of his own fate. We are all free to choose our own destiny. This gives us the innate power to create and to be creative.” – Dan Weiss, from the liner notes
The best drummers, like Art Blakey, Max Roach and Billy Higgins, don’t lead by propulsive pyrotechnics; rather, they lead by inspiring their fellow musicians to the heights of their musical plateaus. The endlessly inventive New York-born drummer, tabla player, and composer Dan Weiss, a seasoned veteran of the Manhattan jazz scene, as evidenced by his sterling sideman work with everybody from Lee Konitz, David Binney and Vijay Iyer, to Miguel Zenon, Uri Caine and Ben Monder, is such a drummer. Weiss, with the release of his Sunnyside debut, Timshel, signals the end of his anonymity.
Backed by his long-time trio mates, pianist Jacob Sacks and drummer Thomas Morgan, Weiss weaves elements of different compositional styles and knowledge of Indian rhythms into the language of jazz on his twelve-track CD, to create something new and eternal, foreign and familiar. “Each piece in this record draws upon a specific inspiration which has captured my curiosity and imagination the last couple of years,” Weiss writes in the liner notes. “The intention behind this record was to take the essence of each of these inspirations and to create a musical narrative. It is intended to be listened to as one piece, uninterrupted. While each piece is its own song, they each serve a larger purpose which is the suite.”
Weiss and his terrific triad offer a sensitive and sophisticated take on how a twenty-first century trio should sound. Weiss’ expert drumming soothes, swings, and flies, with Sacks’ elegiac pianism and Morgan’s steady and supportive bass lines. “Stephanie” dances with a Latin tinge, contrasted by the dark and lovely lullaby excursions of “Dream,” the title track “Timshel,” the Chopinesque “Frederic,” and the tabla-tantric “Teental Song.” “Florentino and Fermina,” two characters from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s immortal novel, Love in the Time of Cholera, evolves from a sensuous tone poem to an urgent, 4/4 cadence. Weiss pays tribute to another extra-musical medium: film, with his ingenious “Always Be Closing,” which comes from a line from the film Glenngarry Glen Ross, starring Jack Lemmon, where Weiss’s devilish drum work mimics Lemmon’s dialog. “Dream” is a work that melds all of the CD’s myriad moods and grooves, while “Chakradar #4” and “Interlude” highlight Weiss’s expert adaptations of sub-continental Indian scales and tabla rhythms to jazz.
If it takes a village to raise a child, then it took a world city like New York to create a global musician like Dan Weiss. Born in New Jersey, Weiss started playing the drums at the age of six. Weiss attended Manhattan School of Music and studied drumset with John Riley, composition with David Noon and frame drums with Jamey Haddad. Weiss has studied the tabla for twelve years under the guidance of his guru, Pandit Samir Chatterjee, and has performed classical Indian music with Ramesh Mishra, Mandira Lahiri, Subra Guha, Anoushka Shankar, Anirban Dasgupta, Joyas Biswas, and Steve Gorn. He has also performed in recitals with his teacher in Kolkata, India. His two previous recordings as a leader: Tintal Drumset Solo (Chhandayan, 2005) and Now Yes When (Toap, 2006).
So, from drumkits to tablas, as Timshel aurally illustrates in all of it’s syncopated splendor, that Dan Weiss has got the rhythms covered. “I feel grateful to have been exposed to such beautiful things, and I feel even more grateful for the opportunity to now share these things with you.”