Drummer/composer Dan Weiss‘s new album Sixteen: Drummers Suite will be released next week on Pi Recordings. Each track is named in tribute to a particular drummer, and takes a piece of that drummer’s playing as its initial inspiration. The performances chosen are Elvin Jones, on “Vigil” from John Coltrane‘s Live in Belgium; Max Roach, on “Jodie’s Cha Cha” from his Deeds Not Words; Tony Williams, on “Nefertiti” from the Miles Davis album of the same name; Philly Joe Jones, on “Billy Boy” from Davis’s Milestones; Kenny Clarke, on “Broadway” from Dexter Gordon‘s Our Man In Paris; and Ed Blackwell, on “Cherryco” from John Coltrane and Don Cherry‘s The Avant-Garde. But it’s hardly an album of drum solos: the ensemble, as the album title indicates, is 16 members strong. It includes Weiss on drums, tabla, and vocal percussion; Thomas Morgan on bass; Jacob Sacks on piano; Matt Mitchell on keyboard, piano, glockenspiel, organ, and vibraphone; Miles Okazaki on guitars and vocal percussion; Stephen Cellucci on percussion and vocal percussion; Katie Andrews on harp; Anna Webber on flute and alto flute; David Binney and Miguel Zenon on alto saxophones; Ohad Talmor on tenor saxophone; Ben Gerstein on trombone; Jacob Garchik on trombone and tuba; and vocalists Judith Berkson, Lana Is and Jen Shyu.
Today we’re premiering “Tony.” Weiss says of the album and the track, “The idea of the recording started when I was learning this Elvin [Jones] comping thing he did behind Trane from Belgium 1965, ‘Vigil.’ I put pitches to that rhythm and then built the piece around it using a series of ‘homemade modes’ in a cyclical fashion. From that spawned the idea to do a record based on source material from some of my favorite drummers. The source material (8-16 measures of either a solo or accompanying rhythm) lays the rhythmic, melodic, harmonic, and timbral groundwork for the large ensemble.
“When I first heard Nefertiti at about 15 years old, my world was completely turned upside down. The phrase where he starts the tom-tom fill on beat 2 completely altered my approach to drumming. For that reason, it was a natural choice to use those measures as the source material for ‘Tony.'”