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Pianist Michael Weiss latest recording sums up a career focused on jazz

A man in a blue long sleeve shirt closes his eyes and looks to the right while playing a Steinway & Sons grand piano.
courtesy of Michael Weiss
Pianist Michael Weiss.

Since the 1980s, pianist Michael Weiss has been recognized as a major talent in jazz performance, writing, composing and arranging. His latest album "Persistence" was released earlier this year.

"Persistence" is Weiss’ fifth recording as a leader, and his first released on the Canadian label Cellar Live. It was recorded in the famous Rudy van Gelder studio in New York, where Weiss recorded his debut album in 1986.

"Persistence" brings together all the qualities that have made Weiss a valued member of New York’s jazz community for more than three decades.

The recording features four originals by Weiss and four standards by Thelonious Monk, Fats Waller, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Jimmy Van Heusen, re-arranged by Weiss.

Weiss is a master improviser, with ideas that sprout from the seeds of each composition and arrangement.

His quartet on this recording includes tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, and the bass and drum team of Paul Gill and Pete Van Nostrand. These veterans have worked together for years and are rooted in the bebop tradition, but not limited by it.

“This recording is a snapshot, like any night on a gig,” Weiss said in a press release. “I’m satisfied with the way the band interpreted and contributed to the songs and how everything comes across. It’s one thing to write, arrange, and organize the material, but it’s another thing how it’s all realized.”

Michael Weiss Trio - El Camino - Bar Bayeux

Weiss grew up in Dallas, Texas, and started piano lessons at age 6. He was drawn to jazz and the blues-influenced compositions of Horace Silver, and the big band arrangements of Thad Jones. Without an early mentor, he relied on recordings to learn his craft.

Weiss attended Indiana University, which at the time, had a well-established jazz program in the largest music school in the U.S. He moved on to New York City to work with legends like Johnny Griffin, Art Farmer and Jimmy Heath.

A dedicated music educator, Weiss has held faculty positions at Queens College, Juilliard, and the Hartt School of Music, and serves as artist-in-residence in universities and secondary schools, presenting jazz workshops and master classes.

Listen for "Second Thoughts" from the album "Persistence" on KNKX Midday and Evening Jazz programs.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.