Album review: Daniel Weiss - Dive (2021)
Daniel Weiss is an Israeli-born, Berklee College of Music graduate guitarist and producer who, thanks to reaching the finals of the international online talent competition for unknown guitarists ‘Guitar Idol 2016’, is now a highly sought-after musician, composer, arranger and tutor. Weiss has always been willing to offer his services as a guide and inspiration for other musicians, happy to share his skills, talents, and experience with aspiring players. His well-established teaching career is based from his Tel Aviv studio and has international reach through an online presence with a range of digital courses, spanning a variety of subjects, and providing support at all levels.
His exceptional abilities and unique playing style are available for all to admire on a Guitar Idol Facebook page video of his performance in the final, which took place in London’s 100 Club on Oxford Street https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1340650552623949
Weiss has been involved in a number of musical projects, and his compositions and arrangements have been performed by international artists and by symphony orchestras in Israel. It must have been pretty special to be the opening act for Enrique Iglesias but perhaps his most important role is with prog trio Square to Check, who formed in 2014. They are a supremely talented combo who have released two EPs, Stir Fry (2016) and Orchestrated (2018), and landed a slot as the opening act for a Stick Men gig in Tel Aviv in October 2016.
Weiss has just released his first solo album Dive, created in collaboration with New York-based keyboard player Yaniv Taubenhouse. His Square to Check colleagues Sharon Petrover (drums) and Lior Ozeri (bass) feature as guest musicians along with drummer Yogev Gabay, bassist Iggy Jackson, saxophonist Omri Abramov, and percussionist Nadav Gaiman who played on Square to Check’s Orchestrated.
Virtuoso playing is evident throughout the entire 43 minutes running time, but it’s not flash for the sake of showing off. Each composition has a perfect balance between guitar and keyboards, and the saxophones are given their own space on Toothpick and Earth. It’s on the jazz end of the prog-jazz spectrum, but that’s probably the mid-point of the influences of the two collaborators, Weiss and Taubenhouse, and would no doubt appeal to prog fans who like Bill Bruford’s Earthworks or Barbara Thompson’s Paraphernalia as much as anyone who’s into modern electric jazz. The overriding features of the album are the melodicism and optimism, which fit in with Weiss’s own thoughts on the album: “DIVE explores the healing power that melody can provide. It will not only take the listener on a journey to the fictional underwater ‘Dive’ but will also take listeners on a journey of discovery in a breathtaking world that lies within themselves”.
Land of the Dreamers is an exercise in understatement. The jazzy melody line is played on clean guitar which maintains its restrained feel even when the volume is increased. I’m a big fan of electric piano and there’s lots of it here.
K4Y is comprised of a lot of short, fast runs where the guitar reminds me of Allan Holdsworth’s playing. The use of interesting rhythmic patterns with frequent short pauses gives the piece the feeling of Return to Forever at their proggiest.
Toothpick begins with funky bass but it’s the distorted electric piano which gives the composition a distinct 70’s jazz rock feel, a bit like Isotope, who started out as a riff-based outfit on their debut but embraced funk on their third album Deep End.
While Dan’s Mode is quite laid back but builds in intensity, Back Home, the only track with a single composer (Weiss), is almost classical-jazz guitar and acoustic piano, staying sedate and introspective throughout.
Album closer Earth is the longest and the most proggy track, lasting over 10 minutes and providing the opportunity for extensive development.
Weiss is undoubtedly blessed with an amazing guitar technique, a talent also backed up with excellent compositional skills and a knack of finding gifted collaborators. I’m not a fan of the wordless vocals at the end of Land of the Dreamers, but that’s a matter of personal preference, not a criticism. This really is a well crafted and produced slice of prog-jazz and I’m sure we’ll be hearing a great deal more about Daniel Weiss in the near future.
Buy the album here: https://danielweiss.bandcamp.com/album/dive-3
Watch the video for K4Y here: https://youtu.be/cX7Apn5opcM