2019 Michael Brecker International Jazz Saxophone Competition 2nd Place Winner
2019 ASCAP Herb Albert Composer Award Winner
Luma may be Alex Weitz’s second album as leader, but it’s also a first for signaling new directions in the Miami-based saxophonist and composer’s creative sound. From its predecessor, 2013’s Chroma, which by its visceral explosion introduced the jazz world to a genuine talent, Luma recalibrates those youthful energies through an introspective grammar that belies his 25 years. Plying a distinctly original trade, Weitz proves himself to be a performer and composer of immense depth, maturity, and, above all, poise.
Did You Know kicks things off with panache by luring us into the album’s decidedly cinematic atmospheres. Here, Weitz and his sidemen show us the rewards of patience in their downright visual feel for melody. Pianist Tal Cohen, bassist Ben Tiberio, and drummer Michael Piolet build on their longstanding friendship, which translates into a uniquely synergistic rapport in the studio.
The organic care with which the quartet approaches this and every tune that follows is what glues the album together out of seemingly disparate parts. Whether in the driving energies of Outer Noise or the legato poetry of Let It Go, Alex and company show remarkable willingness to follow every narrative element to its logical end. But where the bandleader truly sheds his age is in the balladry of the album’s title track. Luma is an astonishing duet with Cohen at the keyboard. Its brooding intimacy finds likeminded sentiment in Equilibrium, which plays more freely and primes plenty of canvas for the band to paint.
Weitz’s two-part Song For Peace is another highlight, not least of all for revealing deep classical influences in his work. Here the theme takes inspiration from the Romantics, building increasingly complex structures on a lyrical foundation. Azalea, by extension, is an impressionistic gem, more Debussy than Duke. The album closes with the aptly titled Reminiscence, which begins reflectively but gives way to some bursts of color from Piolet at the kit, thereby showing the breadth of Weitz’s penchant for taking giant steps of his own into and beyond the stratosphere of his own vision.
Like the best ensemble casts, Weitz and his crew present us with a full-blown narrative that is warm and timely for its early spring release. And while it is a follow-up, Luma is that rare sequel for expanding its origin story to unusually inevitable degree. Chalk this up to Weitz’s ability as a curator of emotional impressions, as a writer of songs without words, and as an artist who creates as of a way of intuiting what lies ahead.