Pianist James Weidman is indisputably an essential addition to whatever bandstand he graces. A partial list of Weidman's affiliations is staggering in depth & breadth: Max Roach, Woody Herman, Archie Shepp, James Moody, Greg Osby, Bobby Hutcherson, Slide Hampton, Jay Hoggard, Marvin "Smitty" Smith, Gloria Lynne, Dakota Staton, MBase Collective, Cassandra Wilson, TK Blue (co-leader of Taja), Abbey Lincoln, Ruth Naomi Floyd (Producer), Kevin Mahogany (Music Director), Joe Lovano, Marty Ehrlich and Ray Anderson. That list includes several NEA Jazz Masters, musical trailblazers, and great singers; relationships requiring both the skilled touch of an adept soloist as well as superior accompaniment expertise. The gifted Mr. Weidman has it all.
Adroit in myriad styles, Weidman's resourcefulness has served him well. "The more genres you're comfortable with, the deeper your understanding of music," is how Weidman characterizes his broad range of associations. Such versatility has helped Weidman develop his brilliant technique and, as his mantra to his students at William Paterson University suggests, "the better your technique, the better your communication." However, the content of that communication is the most important thing. "You're really telling a story to your audience," he says. "It's a shared journey. That's why I called my first solo album People Music, because we are all supposed to share this music."
A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Weidman was born into a musical family, learning jazz from his saxophonist-bandleading father at age seven. At 14 he was playing organ in his father's band. Throughout his years at Youngstown State University (graduating cum laude with a degree in classical piano & music education), Weidman divided his time between studies and performance, becoming a first call player. "I've never forgotten my father's advice the first time I ever played with him: 'Keep the time, stay out of the way, and tell a story.'"
Weidman's move to the jazz cauldron of New York was inevitable. Not long after relocating he found himself on the bandstand with jazz greats Cecil Payne, Harold Ousley, Bobby Watson, and Pepper Adams, before aligning himself with conceptualist Steve Coleman and the MBase Collective. "Steve's compositions force you to think differently; playing his very demanding rhythms and harmonies is really challenging. It gave me a freer outlook on music." Challenging himself musically continues to be of paramount importance to Weidman.
James Weidman has benefited greatly from his fertile 35-year partnership with acclaimed saxophonist TK Blue, Randy Weston's longtime musical director. "When I first met TK in 1978 we were both writing and our band Taja was a great laboratory for both of us in terms of trying out our ideas. We continue to constantly challenge each other," says Weidman, "our playing together nowadays is more about intuition than notes. TK is more of a spiritual brother, which takes our learning process to a whole different level," says Weidman.
James Weidman has been a welcomed presence on myriad bandstands, including the world's major venues and festivals; just a partial listing includes the Montreux, Monterey, Newport, North Sea and JVC Jazz Festivals, Carnegie Hall, Birdland, Blue Note, Sweet Basil, Village Vanguard, Iridium and Jazz Standard.