Blowing currently outside my window is a gusty wind as I am stringing some words together for a long overdue newsletter to you. A high wind warning in NYC is in effect. The March winds in 21st century fashion have started a few days early, it seems.
Despite the seeming increasing strange weather patterns we experience in this moment in time, I look forward to the arrival of March. Amid the machinations of the lions and the Ides, there is much music to be made.
My loyal followers may know that for last three years I have had a monthly trio residency at The Top of the Standard, 6:30 -9:30. Last year, I launched a new trio, Rhythm Keepers with guitar and bass. My old friend Marvin Horne is the guitarist and John Menegon is the bassist. We celebrate the instrument format first made popular by Nat Cole. As the name suggest, we emphasis exploring music while creating a good feeling through rhythm. I do not by the way plan to commemorate Nat by me singing, although I have my I eye on preparing one vocal. We will see. This year 2019, by the way is Nat “King” Cole’s centennial. Even though, we have been playing a lot on the top floor, keep a look out. We are coming to a basement room soon near you. While the March date at the Top of the Standard for the Rhythm Keepers is yet to be set, I will be appearing there every Monday in March, playing solo piano from 6:30-9:30. I am looking forward in playing all kind of fun stuff. My sets will include originals, standards, and some old school pop tunes.
The Aperturistic Trio with Harvie S and Allan Mednard will perform on March 16 at the Jazz Loft located in Stony Brook, NY. In 2017, I played organ there with trombonist Ray Anderson. One notable thing about the loft is that it is a museum. I was knocked out by the Milt Hinton Room. It is a recreation of his actual living room along with some of his cameras and a lot of other cool stuff.
I am also looking forward to concerts in California with the Joe Lovano Nonet and a performance with trombonist Art Baron and Friends group. Art who was with Duke is always laying some neat Ellingtonia vignettes on me. Saxophonist Ricky Ford is on the gig. I think it was last year when Ricky played the beautiful “Portrait of the Bean” from the album Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins. It was magical!
I am proud to announce that my Inner Circle Music album "Spiritual Impressions" was selected best top 10 albums of 2018 by both Cadence Magazine and Jay Hunter's blog! You can purchase your personal your copy at CD Baby, iTunes or any of your preferred sites. If you don’t have a CD player feel free to put me on your playlist if streaming is your thing.
As I ready for my upcoming performances, I have been reflecting on the treatment of some of my compositions. I have been personally listening a bit to my various albums on Spotify in shuffle mode. Listening to them in that way brought back special memories of all the great musicians that were on all the various dates with me. I enjoyed how they all expertly contributed to make the music come alive.
That’s all for now. When April arrives, I promise to shower you with the news from the 4th month.
I am pleased to announce some special performances and presentations in the NYC area this month.
On Friday July 6, I will be at Trumpets Jazz Club with a recently inaugurated trio, the Rhythm Keepers featuring guitarist Marvin Horne and bassist Belden Bullock. Marvin Horne most notably performed with Elvin Jones for several years. Belden most notably performed with Abdullah Ibraham. Our mission is to collectively explore our concept of musical rhythm and groove. Trumpets is located at 6 Depot Square at the corner of Walnut Street Montclair, NJ (973) 744-2600
On Monday July 16, I will be the featured performer with the Jazz Workshop Faculty Quintet at the Shea Center of the Performing Arts at William Paterson University. I will be joined with David Demsey, tenor sax, Timothy Newman, bass trombone, Marcus McLaurine, bass and Winard Harper, drums. The William Paterson Summer Jazz program celebrating it's 25th year. During the day throughout that week, high school students will be studying with us next others and learning about this art-form.
On Friday July 20, I will make my monthly appearance at the Top of the Standard with Harvie S, bass and Willie Martinez, drums.
I am happy to inform you of my May performances in the NYC area. First, The Steve Williams/James Weidman Qtet will present The Music of Clifford Jordan. The date is Friday May 18 and Saturday May 19 at Manhattan’s new jazz spot, The 75 Club NYC, 75 Murray St, between Church and West Broadway. The band will also feature Anthony Nelson, tenor sax and Andy McKee, bass.
The very next day Spiritual Impressions will perform selections from the newly released and critically acclaimed Inner Circle Music release. The ensemble will include Ruth Naomi Floyd, vocals, Anthony Nelson, reeds, Belden Bullock, bass and Vince Ector, drums. Here is the review from the current issue of JazzTimes
Spiritual Impressions finds journeyman pianist James Weidman wading through the deep waters, alternately troubled and joyful, of African-American spirituals. He imbues these gems with driving grooves, some intriguing reharmonizations and bracing solos. All serve to freshen up enduring pieces that remain deeply meaningful to so many.
Weidman, best known as a sideman with the likes of Cassandra Wilson, Joe Lovano and the late Abbey Lincoln and Kevin Mahogany, makes a superb match with gospel-rooted singer Ruth Naomi Floyd, for whom the pianist has produced and arranged several recordings. She’s a natural, embodying the spirituals’ simultaneous reference to spiritual bliss and the struggles associated with slavery and its aftermath.
The opening track, “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel,” begins with sticky Caribbean-tinted rhythms provided by bassist Harvie S and drummer Vince Ector, as Floyd relates the Old Testament tale of Daniel in the lion’s den. The tune later shifts to earthy acoustic swing, for improvisations by Weidman and saxophonist Anthony Nelson. A similarly syncopated groove undergirds “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” which winds its way into Nelson’s urgent tenor turn.
“Deep River” unfolds as a stately stroll, topped with Nelson’s flute incantations, before shifting to laidback swing that feeds extended solos by Weidman and Nelson. Weidman’s own brief “Prelude to Freedom (Troubled Waters),” with Nelson on soprano saxophone, abuts a lightly funky “Wade in the Water.” On the sparse “No Hiding Place,” Weidman’s weaving melodica lines spar with Nelson’s tenor bursts over lean rhythm-section moves. Weidman demonstrates his prowess as a composer on “African Spirals,” all hypnotic groove and slow-twisting melodies, and effectively caps the moving set of music with an unaccompanied “Walk Together, Children.” -- Phillip Booth
A newly inaugurated trio, the Rhythm Keepers will appear at my monthly stomping ground, The Top of the Standard on Saturday, May 26. Joining me will be guitarist Marvin Horne and Essiet Essiet on bass. We will explore together our personal concept the classic trio format of piano, guitar and bass.
And last but not least, on Thursday, May 31, I will hook up with my longtime associate Marty Ehrlich and will be helping him celebrate his next trip around the sun with the Philosophy of a Groove Quartet at the Stone now located at the Glass Box Theater at 55 W. 13th St. near 6th Avenue. In the band is Jerome Harris, bass and Cedric Easton, drums.
That takes us to the end of the month and the end of this installment of my story. Peace and Blessings!
My latest album, “Spiritual Impressions” (Inner Circle Music) will be released in February. The work is a re-imagining of the iconic Negro Spirituals performed in various impressionistic moods and grooves. I am grateful for the wondrous contributions from the beautiful musicians that lent their special voices and creativity to this special project: Ruth Naomi Floyd, voice, Anthony Nelson, tenor, soprano saxophones, bass clarinet and flute, Harvie S, acoustic and electric bass, Vince Ector, drums, djembe, sangba.
"Weidman offers solid ideas on how to make old traditional material contemporary. Ruth Naomi Floyd rich vocals help breath new air into old music. Floyd is one of Philadelphia's gems. A fresh jazz interpretation."
- Robert Rusch, Cadence Magazine
"There's a lot going on here in this piano vet's latest. Feeling not quite like cocktail jazz or after-hours jazz, once you get into it, you hear this really is a set of spirituals that have been taken out the back door of the church to where the party is going on. Blowing the dust off of tunes that picked up the dust traveling on the Underground Railroad, this is a dandy ear opener that'll make you think as well as listen."
- Chris Spector, Midwest Record
"Weidman and his ensemble pay tribute to a difficult time in American history on "Spiritual Impressions." The group makes the songs sound contemporary without forgetting about their original purpose."
- Dodie Gould Miller, Lemonwire
You can listen to sample clips and pre-order “Spiritual Impressions” here.
In celebration of Black History Month and the recording release, The Spiritual Impressions Ensemble will be performing a series of concerts throughout the area.
Pianist James Weidman is indisputably an essential addition to whatever bandstand he graces. A partial list of Weidman's affiliations is staggering in depth & breadth: Max Roach, Woody Herman, Archie Shepp, James Moody, Greg Osby, Bobby Hutcherson, Slide Hampton, Jay Hoggard, Marvin "Smitty" Smith, Gloria Lynne, Dakota Staton, MBase Collective, Cassandra Wilson, TK Blue (co-leader of Taja), Abbey Lincoln, Ruth Naomi Floyd (Producer), Kevin Mahogany (Music Director), Joe Lovano, Marty Ehrlich and Ray Anderson. That list includes several NEA Jazz Masters, musical trailblazers, and great singers; relationships requiring both the skilled touch of an adept soloist as well as superior accompaniment expertise. The gifted Mr. Weidman has it all. Adroit in myriad styles, Weidman's resourcefulness has served him well. "The more genres you're comfortable with, the deeper your understanding of music," is how Weidman characterizes his broad range of associations. Such versatility has helped Weidman develop his brilliant technique and, as his mantra to his students at William Paterson University suggests, "the better your technique, the better your communication." However, the content of that communication is the most important thing. "You're really telling a story to your audience," he says. "It's a shared journey. That's why I called my first solo album People Music, because we are all supposed to share this music."
A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Weidman was born into a musical family, learning jazz from his saxophonist-bandleading father at age seven. At 14 he was playing organ in his father's band. Throughout his years at Youngstown State University (graduating cum laude with a degree in classical piano & music education), Weidman divided his time between studies and performance, becoming a first call player. "I've never forgotten my father's advice the first time I ever played with him: 'Keep the time, stay out of the way, and tell a story.'" Weidman's move to the jazz cauldron of New York was inevitable. Not long after relocating he found himself on the bandstand with jazz greats Cecil Payne, Harold Ousley, Bobby Watson, and Pepper Adams, before aligning himself with conceptualist Steve Coleman and the MBase Collective. "Steve's compositions force you to think differently; playing his very demanding rhythms and harmonies is really challenging. It gave me a freer outlook on music." Challenging himself musically continues to be of paramount importance to Weidman. James Weidman has benefited greatly from his fertile 35-year partnership with acclaimed saxophonist TK Blue, Randy Weston's longtime musical director. "When I first met TK in 1978 we were both writing and our band Taja was a great laboratory for both of us in terms of trying out our ideas. We continue to constantly challenge each other," says Weidman, "our playing together nowadays is more about intuition than notes. TK is more of a spiritual brother, which takes our learning process to a whole different level," says Weidman. James Weidman has been a welcomed presence on myriad bandstands, including the world's major venues and festivals; just a partial listing includes the Montreux, Monterey, Newport, North Sea and JVC Jazz Festivals, Carnegie Hall, Birdland, Blue Note, Sweet Basil, Village Vanguard, Iridium and Jazz Standard.
James Weidman Rhythm Keepers
East Meadow Library
East Meadow, NY
James Weidman Quartet
103 Macon Street
Keith Dames: Homage to Billie Holiday
Manna House Workshops
New York, NY
Maureen's Jazz Cellar
2 N Broadway
Art Baron and Friends
Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse
New York, NY
Trumpets Jazz Club
Clifford Jordan Legacy Band
Jazz in the Sanctuary, Shiloh Baptist Church
James Weidman Rhythm Keepers
Cold Spring Harbor, NY
Jazz Forum Arts
1 Dixon Lane
Tarrytown, NY 10591