David Weiss & Point of Departure, Snuck Out

Trumpeter-composer David Weiss calls his quintet Point of Departure, an intriguing but risky move from the get-go. That's the title, after all, of Andrew Hill's 1964 Blue Note masterpiece, one of the most appealingly adventurous sessions in post-bop jazz. In short, Weiss has set the bar high. The startling thing is, he clears it.

The band's new CD, Snuck Out (on the Sunnyside label), is a terrific album, one of my very favorites so far this year. Its melodic lines swirl in catchy cascades without quite settling into melodies. Its free-style rhythms are tethered to a structure of harmony while floating clear of strict chords. The music's tight, loose, catchy, elusive, knotty and limber, all at once. The musicians (in addition to Weiss, J.D. Allen on tenor sax, Nir Felder on guitar, Matt Clohesy on bass, Jamire Williams on drums) are first-rate. The sound, engineered by Paul Cox, is crisp and airy.

In short, it's much in the spirit of Blue Note circa mid-to-late '60s, when some of the roster's most inventive artists—Hill, Sam Rivers, Jackie McLean, Eric Dolphy, and Grachan Moncur (as well as, in a somewhat different vein, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Joe Henderson)—took the label's classic-five ensemble-sound and twisted it in new and knotty ways: toward but not quite in the avant-garde (like Dolphy's earlier Prestige title, Outward Bound, ie, bound but not quite all the way outward).

Weiss plays mainly rarely covered tunes by other musicians, such as Wayne Shorter's "Paraphernalia" and Charles Tolliver's "Revillot," though one of the album's most engaging pieces, "Hidden Meanings," is its sole original.

One other thing. Snuck Out is a sequel to last year's Snuck In. Both were recorded live at the Jazz Standard on March 25, 2008 (except for two tracks on the first album and one on the second, which were re-done in a studio a couple weeks later). Snuck In is the early set, Snuck Out the late set. The late set, the newer of the two CDs, is better.