Drummer Dan Weiss, pianist Jacob Sacks and bassist Thomas Morgan all share a fondness for repeated figures, so it’s not surprising that Weiss’s Now Yes When has a lot of hypnotic music on it. What is surprising is how naturally and clearly they render their often dense and complex music. This is partly a matter of rigor: “Chakrader 1″ utilizes the traditional Indian tabla technique of replicating drum lines with the voice. Sack shadows the same line on piano, enhancing the effect and forming a three-part incantation that is a model of precision.
From there, the group moves into the slowly unwinding, vaguely ominous-sounding “Not Yet,” anchored by Morgan’s steady bass. Sacks does some startling things here: His formidable technique allows him to mix crystal-clear lines with deliberately blurred ones, creating an unsettlingly dual-edged solo. “For Samirji” has a playful theme, consisting of a simple repeated melodic piano line, with variations coming from rhythmic displacement of the drums and bass. Two trombones, played by Jacob Garchik and Ben Gerstein, are added to “Wizards,” a stately piece that unwinds into an increasingly off-kilter mixture of improvisation and written melody. Both horn players have wonderfully sonorous tones, adding to the gravitas of the piece.
It’s hard to say how Richard Dawson, erstwhile host of the TV game show Family Feud, wound up getting the eponymous tribute included here. It’s more bewildering that that tribute would sound so menacing (I seem to recall that Dawson was kind of a wise guy). No matter; it’s a very good piece of music. Weiss again does some impressive rhythmic displacement in the skewed funk of “Ode to Meshuggah.” It’s arguably the strongest item in the program, with Sacks taking a muscular solo that conjures up an array of historic jazz piano references, and Morgan subtly carrying much of the weight of the composition. Morgan may not get the kind of attention that his playing deserves. He does no grandstanding, instead working creatively to the greater musical good. His fellow musicians will immediately understand how difficult the task he unfailingly pulls off. Now Yes When manages to present very difficult music simply – a sure sign of mastery. Dan Weiss puts himself more visibly on the radar with his fine work.