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James Weidman
http://jamesweidman.com
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James Weidman - Truth & Actuality
biography
Pianist and composer James Weidman celebrates his 60th birthday with his latest
release, Truth & Actuality (Inner Circle Music). Credited to the Aperturistic Trio,
comprised of bassist/co-producer Harvie S and drummer Steve Williams, the album
contains six Weidman compositions, a contribution from Harvie, and a cover of
Stevie Wonder's "Send One Your Love."
The band arose out of duo sessions with Harvie S, in which they performed a series
of concerts, including at NYC's Kitano. "I would book some things, Harvie would
book some things," explains Weidman, "but we never had a steady drummer. Harvie
recommended Steve Williams - I had worked with Steve in Joe Lovano's bands, and
I really liked his playing."
While Truth & Actuality is Weidman's first trio release since 1997's People Music,
he never left the trio format entirely. Each of Weidman's previous releases contain
tunes recorded in the trio setting. He attributes his passion for the trio to his years
of accompanying vocalists, often in trio. "The three of us share this experience of
working with singers," Weidman notes. Harvie is well known for his partnership with
Sheila Jordan, and Williams was at the core of Shirley Horn's trio for decades.
"Through working with vocalists, we all have a passion for the lyrical side of this
music," Weidman observes.
Weidman is also an amateur photographer, often carrying his camera on tour.
"There's a creativity in the colors, shapes and form of what you see, what you
capture through the lens. Composition and improvisation are analogous to that.
That's what we're trying to do, especially on 'Aperturistic' - create our own scenery
within the composition."
Carmen Lundy introduced Weidman to the Stevie Wonder song, and in describing
his relationship to that tune, he provides a characterization of his sound more
generally. "It was a tune I always wanted to record. I'm always fascinated by how
players recall their roots - how Charlie Parker evoked the Kansas City blues and the
Jay McShann horn section, that blues-drenched thing that you can hear throughout
his whole playing. We need to plug into all of our experiences, to draw from those
things and to make it your own."
The blues-drenched piano sound is in full evidence on Weidman's composition
"Pastor B's Homily," dedicated to the late Frederick J. Bryant. A classmate of pianist
Kenny Barron, Bryant had contacted Weidman to start a jazz vespers at his Trinity
Lutheran church. "Pastor B was a phenomenal music lover, he had albums of any
artist you could imagine. He was very much part of that Philadelphia tradition of
proud and knowledgeable listeners." Weidman wrote the piece a few years before
Pastor B passed away from cancer, and had played it for him. "It reminds me of the
way he would dance at the church functions, and the rhythm and cadence of his
voice."
A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Weidman spent his formative years playing organ
both in church and in his father's band. "My first paying gig was in a church. In an
African-American community especially you'd end up doing a church gig, especially
if you could play the sacred music." Through his adolescence he played B3, learning
to improvise and accompany, and digging through his dad's record collection, heavy
on bebop and post-bop sides from the 1940s through the 1960s. "I became
engrossed in learning about all the great pianists and horn men even though I was
playing organ. Bud Powell, Bird, and Miles were greater than Spider-Man &
Fantastic Four to me." He credits mentors such as James Williams, who preceded
Weidman at William Patterson University, and Bob Neloms (the pianist in Charles
Mingus' final band), with providing guidance towards a career in jazz.
Truth & Actuality is Weidman's second release on Inner Circle Music, the label run
by saxophonist Greg Osby. Weidman and Osby connected through the M-Base
collective, and bonded over their shared concerns regarding ownership of one's
music. "In M-Base we were very proactive in terms of putting our music out there. A
lot of times I went in and recorded without waiting for anybody. I was self-producing
years ago," notes Weidman.
This independent spirit and prolific creativity has led to Weidman launching a solo
piano album, recorded on a Fazioli piano, that will be available on the same day as
the release of Truth & Actuality. With his recent acquisition of a Steinway L piano,
on the cusp of his 60th birthday, Weidman says he has "an instrument that inspires
him" for the first time since his college days, a new inspiration easily heard on his
two new albums.
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