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Mort Weiss: The B3 and Me (2006)

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Mort Weiss: The B3 and Me How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Mort Weiss turned 71 last year. Records from sixty, fifty, forty years back, of anybody playing clarinet as he does now, would have been equally noteworthy with this second CD, even without the novelty of also featuring a Hammond B3 player (far less the man Weiss isn't alone in calling the Hammond B3 player). This may be the only clarinet/organ/guitar quartet on disc, but there were never that many more major bebop clarinetists.

Discord is mentioned in Weiss's notes to the present set, and a 30 to 40-year hiatus in Weiss' career (independent sources suggest he not unreasonably tired of touring on tenor). The discord was over the prominent billing of the aforementioned Hammond B3 player (Joey DeFrancesco) on a previous CD, and initial plans to credit this one to the organist himself, naming Weiss as a sideman. The company with a major call on the organist's services wanted reference minimised to his part as a member of a Mort Weiss Quartet on the previous CD, and blocked plans for the present set to appear under any name. After about three more years the ban was rescinded, DeFrancesco's name isn't on the front of the sleeve, and Weiss is wonderful.

The organist's enthusiasm for the present CD is entirely explicable. As the organist is known to do, and does here enthusiastically too, Weiss swings mightily: when he really gets going he pretty well skis through, across or over chord sequences, after the fashion of a linear improvisation performed on organ. Weiss never forms a note with the clarity and precision achieved by some schooled clarinetists when they're not playing jazz, or when their attempts to play jazz go cold and die. He is a jazz clarinetist, rare enough without being (as he is) among the best bop ones.

Forget questions of the unusual combination of instruments; this clarinetist and this organist match each other, the drummer matches them, and the guitarist's preference for a down-to-earth and straight-up approach can really set things up for Weiss—as when he launches a skiddy skittering effort to determine, by way of a clarinet solo, "How High the Moon."

Where soloing on "I Thought About You," Weiss switches from sensitively simple to knocked-out; after having begun another ballad, "Love Letters," with soft lyrical playing, he follows an organ solo (by guru Joey de Francesco) that's equivalent to deep yoga breathing with yet more of the same relaxed and beautiful stuff.

"Yesterday" also begins with soft-toned clarinet, before Weiss resumes the mercurial style of his more superheated jamming. He's not shy of wildness, but while the last track's indeed called "Fools Rush In"—and angels might fear to tread quite in the same terms as Weiss' fingers do on the clarinet—rushing in is one way to demonstrate you're no fool. As well as no coward. A musician!

Track Listing: Ornithology; I Thought About You; Falling in Love with Love; Love Letters; Billy's [Billie's] Bounce; Autumn Leaves; Yesterdays; You Stepped out of a Dream; Fools Rush In

Personnel: Mort Weiss: clarinet; Joey DeFrancesco: Hammond B3 organ; Craig Ebner: guitar; Byron Landham: drums.

Record Label: SMS Jazz

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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