Ezra Weiss (piano), Jon Shaw (bass), and Tim DuRoche (drums) conjure a reflective dreamscape in Amazing Life
Bringing together Portland, Oregon players and composers from all ends of the jazz universe
“DuRoche’s drumming was like rainfall that fell in love with gravity, at times almost violent with intensity. He disappeared into the dance of his instrument.” -Oregon Arts Watch
“We can only hope that Weiss can keep the standard this high for many years to come.”
EP Release: September 30, 2022, on PJCE Records
Release Concert: October 4, 2022, at The Old Church Portland, OR
Pianist/composer Ezra Weiss, bassist Jon Shaw, and drummer Tim DuRoche combine different ends of the jazz gene pool to create their new EP, Amazing Life. Available September 30, 2022 on PJCE Records, the resulting rich murmuration of sound reflects the deep relationships of its creators.
DuRoche recalled the origin of the project, “While much of my work over the last 20 years has been in the more free improvisation, outer end of the jazz continuum, I had originally talked to Ez about the idea of doing a ballad-driven, more ‘inside’ piano trio in the before-times. Then I had this dream around the end of 2021 where Ez and I recorded an album that sounded (in my dream-head) like Marilyn Crispell’s Amaryllis with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian, a lush and open, moody record—very conversational and marked by deliberation and stillness. After telling Ez about it, he said, ‘wanna go into the studio?’ We went in open-hearted and open-eared, and I think that set a tone for what resulted.”
The warmth and mutual respect between this Portland-centric group of players and composers lie at the core of Amazing Life’s organic vibe. Weiss and DuRoche share a 20-year friendship despite operating in parallel jazz universes; Weiss more straight-ahead, and DuRoche more “out.” Both Weiss and DuRoche have played with Shaw for years, with DuRoche and him often alongside saxophonists/composers Reed Wallsmith and Joe Cunningham. Shaw’s versatility made him the perfect bridge between Weiss and DuRoche’s approaches. Wallsmith and Cunningham, known for their melodic and deeply human music, were natural composers to contribute to the project. Weiss then brought in the work of his musical theater collaborators The Bylines, the performing and composing duo of Reece Marshburn and Marianna Thielen.
Looking at the center of this stylistic Venn diagram, DuRoche reflected, ”What resonates so much for me with this are the space, nooks and crannies, and contours that evolve—through patient listening, mutual affection, and overall cinematic quality.” As for Weiss, he hopes that listeners find “the perfect way to sit with a glass of wine for half an hour.” Listeners familiar with Weiss, DuRoche, and Shaw will likely be surprised to hear them in this context, giving each other the support and freedom to stretch into unfamiliar shapes.
In “Prayer from the Past Revisited,” Weiss shared, “I wrote this composition to have a pretty simple melody and song form, which allows the performers a lot of freedom to make big creative choices during the performance.” In that space, DuRoche and Shaw build the atmosphere slowly and intentionally from a haunting head to an undulating smolder. Weiss recalls, “I think right after we recorded this one, Tim turned to me and said, ‘This was the kind of music we were playing in my dream.’”
Weiss remarked of Wallsmith’s impressionistic piece, “Amazing Life,” “It is a deceptively challenging song. The chords are very triadic (fewer upper harmonic extensions, more like classical or rock music), but they move around in unexpected ways. Yet the surprises feel very organic. To me, these harmonic surprises are like little bursts of delight.”
The Bylines performed their song “End of the World” at a livestream concert on New Year’s Eve 2021, and Weiss instantly fell in love with the tune. He said, “I could imagine Shirley Horn performing a beautiful rendition of it. So that was the direction we decided to take with our recording, a bit of an homage to Shirley’s artistry.”
DuRoche brought “Gumshoe” from composer Joe Cunningham to the group. The short and straightforward notation gave ample room to build a gritty, film noir feel that showcases DuRoche’s drum improvisations.
“The End of Suffering” is another beautiful composition of Cunningham’s, and it features a pensive solo from Shaw. Weiss shared, “I think this was the first thing we recorded, just one take. Listening now, it finishes the album with a very satisfying sense of completeness—maybe even approaching catharsis—like we’ve all been through something together.”
Weiss, Shaw, and DuRoche hope that listeners will find empathy, healing, and a genuine outreach of emotion in the project which certainly contains their own processing of the pandemic experience. DuRoche, in particular, hopes listeners will find, “A surrender. Not giving up or giving in, but an invitation to a different kind of generosity amid so much noise in the world.”
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Composer/pianist Ezra Weiss is “a bold, inspired figure in the contemporary jazz arranging scene.” (DownBeat) He has released seven albums as a bandleader, most recently We Limit Not the Truth of God (2019). Additionally, Ezra composed the music for the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble’s multimedia concert and recording, From Maxville To Vanport (2018), and wrote the big band arrangements for Derek Hines’ The Long Journey Home (2017), which led to the formation of the Ezra Weiss Big Band. Ezra now leads his own big band and sextet, performing at major venues throughout the U.S., including several week-long engagements at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club. A former New Yorker, Ezra served as arranger for drumming legend Billy Hart, and co-led the Courtney Bryan/Ezra Weiss Jazz Orchestra in New York City. He has won the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award three times and has been listed in DownBeat Critics Polls in the Rising Star Arranger category. He has taught at multiple colleges and universities in Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his wife and two kids. ezraweiss.com
Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, bassist Jon Shaw first came to music singing in choirs as a child. As a boy soprano he joined the acclaimed early music ensemble Cantores In Ecclesia, performing Gregorian chant and early polyphony as well as liturgical works of the Renaissance and Romantic periods. As a bass player, this deep connection to melody can be heard throughout his basslines. After some time studying drums and guitar, he began studying upright bass with André St. James, who further instilled in him a reverence for improvisatory music, and an unwavering dedication to rhythm and groove. Since then, he’s had the honor of opening for artists such as George Clinton, George Porter Jr., and Zigaboo Modeliste. In addition to this trio, Jon plays bass in groups spanning across the spectrum of musical genre, including the post-jazz Blue Cranes, the straight-ahead Ezra Weiss Sextet, the avant-garde Battle Hymns and Gardens, and the soulful Dirty Revival.
Tim DuRoche is a jazz drummer, writer, sound artist, and radio host based in Portland since 2000. DuRoche has worked with an array of US and European jazz and free improvisation innovators, including Burton Greene, Roscoe Mitchell, Thollem McDonas, George Sams, Lori Goldston, Rich Halley, John Gross, Eri Yamamoto, Dominic Duval, Damon Smith, Bill McHenry, Matana Roberts, Carei Thomas, Paul Plimley-Lisle Ellis, Torsten Muller-Urs Leimgruber, Elliott Sharp, Jon Raskin, Perry Robinson, Phillip Greenlief, Marco Eneidi, Didier Petit, Alan Tomlinson, and Frank Gratkowski. Local ensembles have included Get Smashing Love Power, Battle Hymns and Gardens (with saxophonists Reed Wallsmith and Joe Cunningham, and bassist Jon Shaw of Blue Cranes), The Kin Trio, and a decade-long association with the late bassist André St. James in innumerable settings. Select recordings include Johnny Miss Mae (Gold Lion Arts), Live in Our Time (ESP-Disk), Timeless Memories from (Charles Lester Music), as well as two previous recordings on PCJE Records: The Kin Trio’s Breathe with Sunjae Lee and André St. James, and Ryan Meagher’s Evil Twin. timduroche.com
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1. Prayer from the Past Revisited (Ezra Weiss, Ezra Weiss Publishing ASCAP)
2. Amazing Life (Reed Wallsmith, Lift Music Flown Music BMI)
3. End of the World (Reece Marshburn/Marianna Thielen, Moon Vine Music ASCAP)
4. Gumshoe (Joe Cunningham, Lift Music Flown Music BMI)
5. The End of Suffering (Joe Cunningham, Lift Music Flown Music BMI)
Ezra Weiss, piano
Jon Shaw, bass
Tim DuRoche, drums
Recording Engineer: Paris Butler
Mixing and Mastering: Katsuhiko Naito
Executive Director: Ryan Meagher
Cover Design: Tiny Little Hammers
Recorded February 3 and 28, 2022 at Blue Butler Studios, Portland, Oregon.
Released September 30, 2022 on PJCE Records.
Supported by a generous grant from the Holler Fund.