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.
Steve Williams James Weidman Qtet/The Music of Clifford Jordan
The 75 Club
New York, NY
James Weidman Spiritual Impressions
First Presbyterian Church
1731 Church St,
Rahway, NJ 07065
James Weidman Rhythm Keepers, with Marvin Horne, Essiet Essiet
The Top of the Standard
New York, NY
Marty Ehrlich "Philosophy of A Groove"
The Stone at the New School
New York, NY
James Weidman Rhythm Keepers, with Marvin Horne, Belden Bullock
William Paterson Faculty Concert featuring the music of James Weidman
Shea Auditorium of the Performing Arts
Deer Head Inn
Delaware Water Gap, PA