Decades long experience with a multitude of notable artists -- from his early days as accompanist to iconic vocalists Abbey Lincoln and Cassandra Wilson, on to his years as a member of M-Base Collective innovator Steve Coleman’s group and music director for the late great Kevin Mahogany, up to his current tenure with saxophonist Joe Lovano’s critically acclaimed nonet and Grammy nominated Us Five band -- has proven pianist/composer/arranger James Weidman to be one of the most versatile artists in music today and prepared him well for his steady emergence as an important bandleader in his own right.
Weidman’s versatility is evidenced in the wide ranging music of the various ensembles that he currently leads: The Aperturistic Trio (with bassist Harvie S and drummer Steve Williams) which explores his own cutting edge original compositions; The Rhythm Keepers (featuring Marvin Horne on guitar), a group in the tradition of Nat King Cole’s classic trio that swings jazz standards out of the Great American Songbook; and Spiritual Impressions, an ensemble including singer Ruth Naomi Floyd that features him doubling on piano and organ performing his own stirring arrangements 19th century Black Spirituals. He also concurrently co-leads the James Weidman-Steve Williams Quartet performing the Music of Clifford Jordan.
James Weidman was born July 23, 1953 in Youngstown, Ohio, where he grew up and began playing piano at the age of seven. He was first schooled in the elements of jazz by his father, saxophonist James Weidman, Sr., and by the time he was fourteen he was playing organ in his father’s band. He says, "I've never forgotten my father's advice from the first time I ever played with him: 'Keep the time, stay out of the way, and tell a story.'" In later years, while still studying at Youngstown State University (from which he graduated cum laude in 1976 with a degree in classical piano and music education) he became a first call sideman for visiting jazz headliners, including Pepper Adams, Slide Hampton, Woody Herman, Bobby Hutcherson, Gloria Lynne, James Moody, Harold Ousley, Cecil Payne, Max Roach, Archie Shepp, Dakota Staton, and Bobby Watson.
It was with this background that aided him in the development of his skilled touch as an adept soloist as well as a superior accompaniment Weidman made his inevitable move to New York City in 1978, where he worked around town as a sideman with various veterans and up-and-comers, while co-leading the band Taja with longtime Randy Weston saxophonist TK Blue, before coming into the orbit of conceptualist Steve Coleman and the M-Base Collective. He recalls, "Steve's compositions forced you to think differently; playing his very demanding rhythms and harmonies was really challenging. It gave me a freer outlook on music." Weidman’s early recordings with Coleman, along with M-Base disciples Robin Eubanks, Greg Osby, Lonnie Plaxico and Cassandra Wilson, as well as other forward thinking players like Marty Ehrlich and Jay Hoggard, signaled the development of Weidman’s personally individualistic approach to music that has been continuously evidenced on his own recordings of predominantly original compositions, beginning with his 1997 debut as a leader, People Music (a trio outing featuring bassist Belden Bullock and drummer Marvin Smitty Smith) and continuing with succeeding dates All About Time (with Hoggard, bassist Ed Howard, drummer Marcus Baylor and vocalist Charene Dawn) and the superbly innovative Three Worlds (with trombonist Ray Anderson, saxophonist/clarinetist Marty Ehrlich, bassist Brad Jones and drummer Francisco Mela)