"Before You Know It (Live in Portland)" is Ezra Weiss' seventh album as a leader. It is, however, his first release of a live recording--therefore, the subtitle. The recording took place in October of 2013 at Ivories Jazz Lounge in, of course, Portland, Oregon.
Making up Weiss' sextet is Weiss on piano with his brilliant composing, inspired arranging and soulful musicianship. Joining Weiss is the smoking blues trumpet of Farnell Newton, the virtuosic John Nastos on alto sax, the warm New Orleans sound of Devin Phillips on tenor sax, the smoothly strident bass of Jon Shaw and expansive drumming of Chris Brown.
Portland is loaded with incredible musicians and Weiss has brought together some of the Rose City's finest. Each one of these guys are on the short list at their instruments. They are well-acquainted with Weiss' repertoire and they perform together seamlessly. Weiss wrote seven of the nine tracks and they are all gems.
The album is opened by Weiss' "Winter Machine" and what an opening! Weiss received the 2006 ASCAP Young Composer Award for the piece. Newton and Nastos are astounding on this track and Chris Brown reveals his own "modern take on the drumming," according to Weiss. From the first notes, it is clear that this is going to be one of the best live albums of the year.
From there the mood shifts to the more languid ballad of "Don't Need No Ticket." Devon Phillips weaves a masterful tapestry of tenor sax soulfulness. Weiss, Shaw and Brown underpin the melody with rich soul of their own. Farnell Newton brings his punch and power to what becomes a more strident rhythm section. Shaw's solo is a charmer and the close is an exercise in unified beauty.