Ezra Weiss 

The Five A.M. Strut (Umoja)

Ezra Weiss, a 24-year-old pianist from Phoenix who graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, has released a solid, swinging debut any seasoned jazz artist would be proud of. The memorable tunes span the harmonically inventive, propulsive "Symmetrics"; the goofy, Kurt Weill-influenced "The Clown Feature"; and the elegiac ballad "I Regret."

Weiss is adept on piano and in composition, and he has assembled an expert group: Antonio Hart plays gorgeous alto sax, Kelly Roberge delivers a biting tenor, drummer Billy Hart's grooves recall New Orleans second line and early Horace Silver, and tart young trumpeter Michael Philip Mossman gives the surprisingly distinctive tunes their modern edge.

Weiss has absorbed the lessons of bop: attention to form, interesting and well-placed vamps, and subordination of ego to composition. The way he writes -- passionately, with wit and respect for his fellow musicians -- attests to his talent and appetite for creativity, and suggests a long, enjoyable career.

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