Jazz CD Reviews

Cory Weeds/Bill Coon Quartet – With Benefits – Cellar Live

An album that showcases everyone’s best qualities.

Published on October 7, 2013

Cory Weeds/Bill Coon Quartet – With Benefits – Cellar Live CL091812, 66:45 ****

(Cory Weeds – tenor saxophone; Bill Coon – guitar; Peter Washington – doublebass; Lewis Nash – drums)

A ubiquitous presence on the Vancouver, British Columbia jazz scene, Cory Weeds wears many hats – tenor saxophonist, jazz club owner, record label owner/ producer, and jazz blogger. In this quartet outing with two American jazz heavy-weights, Weeds wears only two hats. Firstly as a tenor saxophonist with a lively and open tone, and secondly as the owner of Cellar Live which is the label on which this recording has been released.

In this ten-track outing, there is a mixture of  four originals from guitarist Bill Coon and one other that he co-wrote with Weeds, with the remainder coming from readily recognizable tunes that have made their way into the jazz vernacular. With a tip of the cap to another one of Weed’s ventures “Broadway and Alma” is the location for the Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver and the piece is based on the standard “Broadway” which gives the band a frame on which to hang their efforts, with both Weeds and Coon delivering solid efforts. While not all of these original compositions are created equal, one that does stand out is the title track “With Benefits” that swings right out of the gate with a strong forceful opening from Weeds after a drum into from Nash, and some sharp lines from Coon, then an extended resonant solo from bassist Washington.

What seems to work better from the group are the covers of those familiar compositions starting with a ¾ time signature offering of “There’s A Small Hotel” which shows Weeds’ sensitivity for abstract consistency. On that old George Shearing favorite “East Of The Sun” which is done in a relaxed bossa-like tempo, Coon demonstrates that he can be a cleverly artistic guitarist whether he is in front of the band of simply chording behind Weeds. Every album release known to mankind (a bit of a hyperbole, but nevertheless) has to have an Ellington composition included and for good reason. The harmonic structure of Ellington’s compositions offer the required blend of style and substance that are crucial to good music making. Both Weeds and Coon take full advantage of this with some of their best playing of the session, with bassist Washington chipping in with lyrical solo dotted with some quotes from other Ellingtonia. The best of the rest is McCoy Tyner’s “Search For Peace” and while Weeds is no Joe Henderson (tenor sax on the album The Real McCoy which includes this composition) he does treat the tune with respect and gives it his own soulful interpretation.

There is an old sports metaphor which says: “You play up to the level of who you’re surrounded by”. In this case both Weeds and Coon match up quite nicely with Washington and Nash to deliver an album that showcases everyone’s best qualities.

TrackList: Broadway and Alma; There’s A Small Hotel; Cory’s Story; Smile Stacey; East Of The Sun; With Benefits; Search For Peace; Just Squeeze Me; Wesology; Sunday Morning

—Pierre Giroux

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