Consummate Tenor Saxophonist Cory Weeds Announces the Release of Home Cookin, out November 10, 2023 via Cellar Music Group, Featuring his Masterful Ensemble, the Little Big Band
“What Weeds wanted, as noted above, was a mid-sized unit that would generate as much range and power as a full-sized orchestra. Mission accomplished. More than that, Weeds and his ‘little big band’ have produced an album of superior straight-ahead jazz that pleases on every level.” — Jack Bowers, All About Jazz
Cellar Music Group is proud to announce the November 10, 2023 release of Home Cookin’ by celebrated saxophonist Cory Weeds and his Little Big Band. Weeds’ eleven-piece ensemble features a ‘who’s who’ of all-star Vancouver-based players who beautifully interpret arrangements by renowned jazz artists and arrangers Bill Coon and Jill Townsend as well as two breath-taking original compositions. Weeds’ singular tenor saxophone sound is complemented by pianist Chris Gestrin, bassist John Lee, drummer Jesse Cahill, lead alto saxophonist Steve Kaldestad, tenor saxophonist James Danderer, baritone saxophonist Dave Say, trombonists Brian Harding and Jim Hopson, and trumpeters Brad Turner and Chris Davis.
Cory Weeds’ first Little Big Band release, 2018’s Explosion, showcased some of the bandleader’s favorite musicians from New York City. Home Cookin’ strikes a more personal tone by featuring Weeds’ favorite musicians in his home city of Vancouver. A natural progression from his first Little Big Band release – Home Cookin’ tells a story of the great city of Vancouver and of Weeds’ journey from there and back again.
The story behind the recording of Home Cookin is one that underscores the sheer tenacity of the bandleader. In March of 2023, Weeds booked several evenings for the Little Big Band at Frankie’s Jazz Club in Vancouver. The weekend would culminate with the recording of this album at The Warehouse Studios. Weeds recalls: “I put a lot of thought into Home Cookin’ and what would set me and the band up for success. A rehearsal, two nights performing the music live… and then into the studio. It was perfect! What could possibly go wrong?”
Unfortunately, fate had a different plan for that weekend as it began with the bandleader’s saxophone being stolen. The instrument held immense sentimental value for Weeds, and this paired with the fact that the bandleader had fallen ill earlier in the week, seemed almost insurmountable. “To say I was devastated would be an understatement however, as the old saying goes, “the show must go on.” I jumped into action with the help of saxophonists James Danderfer and Steve Kaldestad to find a playable instrument that would get me through the weekend including the recording… I actually got back in time to rehearse two tunes!” The band played magnificently to sold out houses at Frankie’s Jazz Club and Weeds transcended this unfortunate situation.
From the very first refrains of the opening track, a rendition of Horace Silver’s “Home Cookin”, the eleven-piece ensemble displays a stellar synergy. The Little Big Band seemingly marries the dynamic sensibilities and interplay of a combo with the harmonic intrigue of a big band. Weeds indicates “I’m happy to have two Horace Silver tunes here as he and his late 50’s band has become a huge influence on me. The title track and “Metamorphosis” are two of my favorite Horace tunes. So hip!”
The recording of “Corner Kisses” is a truly special moment on the album. Composed by Weeds’ father, the tune offers a bright, and yet sentimental moment to the album. “Blossoms in May” is a throwback to Weeds’ very first date as a leader. The track, written for Weeds’ wife, adds a moment of tenderness to the release – with a sultry, lyrical solo from Weeds.
““Lullabye Of The Leaves” comes from one of the albums that is the impetus for this band”, Weeds notes. The bandleader is referring to the classic album Gene Ammons – Late Hour Special featuring arrangements from the great Oliver Nelson. The tour de force of Weeds’s stunning musicality amplified by his personnel and Bill Coon and Jill Townsend’s stunning arrangements places this release with one foot rooted in the hallmark sound of Gene Ammons and one foot pointed toward a bright future, with a singular ensemble sound that has to be heard to be described.
Weeds gives the Little Big Band treatment to pianist Michael Weiss’ “Power Station”, a hard-bop fueled tune which Weeds first encountered while on tour with Weiss. Weeds and Turner swing gracefully over the changes with a tight-pocket accompaniment from Gestrin, Lee and Cahill. Gestrin takes a tremendous solo ending in cleverly-placed harmonic jabs from the horn section carrying the ensemble back into the melody.
Weeds remarks “Thad Jones’ “Thedia” screamed a little big band arrangement to me and Bill Coon made this tricky little tune come to life!” The track highlights the tremendous dynamic range of the ensemble, traversing sonic palettes seamlessly. What other outfit can harken back to Birth of the Cool-era Miles Davis during a tune’s head and then shift dynamics towards the sound of the Cookin-era Miles Davis quintet as soon as the solo section hits? It speaks to the ensemble’s tremendous collective knowledge and respect for the artform, and their acute, individual focus on the group-sound.
Made up of compositions that hold particular meaning for Weeds, this album’s tracks embody the sounds of Vancouver, interpreted by the very artists who help to make it such a vibrant city. Weeds indicates “Given all that happened leading up to this recording I was a bit scared to listen back to it fearing the worst. What I hear however is myself powering through what was a tough situation, making the best of it and most importantly having fun with my friends. The music is meant to make you smile and if it does that then I have done my job!”
More About The Artist:
To many, Cory Weeds’ name is synonymous with the thriving jazz scene in Vancouver. While dedicating the better part of the past twenty years to performing alongside jazz greats such as Joey DeFrancesco, Christian McBride, Harold Mabern, and Peter Bernstein and leading his own successful small ensemble outings, Weeds may be best known as the founder and owner of Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver, which he successfully ran for more than 14 years. Weeds built the Cellar to become one of North America’s best Jazz clubs, where masters such as George Coleman, Jeff Hamilton, Louis Hayes, David “Fathead” Newman, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and the finest Jazz musicians from Vancouver and across Canada and the U.S. performed before it closed in February 2014.
Live recordings created at Cellar Jazz Club acted as the impetus for the creation of Cellar Music Group which has since successfully released close to 350 recordings, celebrating jazz – and particularly jazz from Vancouver, at its absolute finest. Partnered with his entrepreneurialism, Weeds remains a true force, and a singular voice on the tenor saxophone. C. Michael Bailey (All About Jazz) said it best – Renaissance Man Cory Weeds has the midas touch!
Track Listing (with lengths, composers, publishers)
Home Cookin’ 5:38
H. Silver / adapted and arranged by Jill Townsend
Corner Kisses 5:00
B. Weeds / arranged by Bill Coon
Blossoms In May 6:02
C. Weeds/ arranged by Bill Coon
Power Station 5:06
M. Weiss / arranged by Michael Weiss
T. Jones/ arranged by Bill Coon and Jill Townsend
Lullaby Of The Leaves 5:36
B. Petkere & J. Young/ arranged by Oilver Nelson/ adapted and transcribed by Fred Stride
H. Silver/ adapted and arranged by Jill Townsend