Dan weiss, the eclectic virtuoso drummer from New Jersey arrives at the Piacenza Jazz Festival, in this case as bandleader of a 5 piece group, to promote “Starebaby” his latest musical project. Dan, a 41 year old in-demand drummer and seasoned tabla player took time out in early 2017 to create something that can be only be described as a jazz meets metal experiment. A line up started to sort itself out with Trevor Dunn on bass, an avant-garde jazz player for sure yet able to hold down gigs with the Melvins for example. Perfect for “heavy” playing. The band was completed with Craig Taborn and Matt Mitchell on keyboards, piano and electronics and Ben Monder on guitar and they are all on stage tonight.
I have to mention that Dan Weiss held a free drumming masterclass at the Milestone Jazz Club for kids in Piacenza earlier in the afternoon, just to show that jazz musicians are of a different mould and it’s not “show me the money” or fame. Putting something back into the community in this way is both instructive and noble.
Playing at the Teatro President in Piacenza they amble onstage, take to their instruments and with no introduction start up with Dan taking the lead from centre stage. They will play 6 basic pieces tonight, all Dan Weiss compositions but only one , the encore ‘Depridation’ is on the “Starebaby” album. The other songs are new songs exploring new arrangements and sensations that this new musical style can allow. It doesn’t always work but it is always fascinating stuff. The input of the musicians is so essential and Dunn and Monder especially create a fantastic backbone for this heavy jazz. Dan is superlative using every part of his drum set to create sounds and drum patterns.
The overall effect is that the set is greater than the sum of its parts but the closing minutes of ‘Arnica 2’ and an incredible mantra style bass driven groove on the third ensemble piece,a new song, which gradually builds up both in speed and sound are both tantalisingly free of spirit, heavy of sound and above all fun with real moments of band unison.
A 90 minute set is has to be said flies by thanks to a great sound setup and the sheer brilliance of the playing. Having thanked the crowd for showing up and the organisers of the Jazz fest for the wonderful reception in Piacenza, the band leave the stage, happy and fulfilled that they are creating something new in the jazz world thanks primarily to Dan Weiss’s inspiration and commitment. If you have the chance to see them, do so.
Photo credit: thanks to Angelo Bardini official photographer for PcJazzFest2019