Soul Journey features an exceptional program of nine intriguing compositions by Michael Weiss, a composer and bandleader of the first rank, who has forged a broad-minded aesthetic that marries deep respect for the jazz tradition with a modernist's commitment to make it new. Soul Journey eschews the current vogue for homage and tribute albums and recycling the conventions of yesterday in favor of carving a personal sound world with the tools of melodic integrity, harmonic richness, rhythmic surprise, expressive detail, formal ingenuity, intellectual honesty and emotional depth. Weiss isn't afraid to reference the past, but his music exists totally in the present.
What is most striking about Soul Journey is the diversity of the compositions, the dexterity which Weiss develops his materials and the way the forms and improvisations merge into an organic whole. Take for example, El Camino, which won the Grand Prize in the 2000 BMI/Thelonious Monk Institute's Composition Competition. Weiss' expert tailoring fully exploits the sonorous potential of the trumpet, alto saxophone and trombone front-line and a fully interactive rhythm section. El Camino blends south-of-the-border rhythms with an active bassline, vivid harmonies and a lithe, through-composed melody adorned by an introduction, interludes, coda and background figures adding spice to the improvised solos.
"What's going to drive jazz forward is a greater integration of composition and improvisation rather than the same old head-solos-head format," says Weiss. "I want to keep the music fresh and interesting."