Clarinetist Mort Weiss is a character. That much is readily evident by reading his All About Jazz
column, The Mort Report
. He is opinionated and passionate, both driving forces that easily season his playing in such a way that when Weiss plays, he's readily recognizable. Since returning to recording in 2001 after nearly 30 years away, Weiss has recorded a number of well-received CDs bringing him to what he considers his most fully realized release, I'll Be Seeing You
Stylistically, Weiss is somewhat of a missing link within the post-swing jazz clarinetists. He lies somewhere between notable saxophonists who doubled on clarinet, like Lester Young
and Art Pepper
, and progressive (for the era) clarinetists like Buddy DeFranco
and Tony Scott
. Weiss' playing betrays his admiration for DeFranco in his fluid bop delivery and a certain risk-taking that made up Scott's oeuvre. Weiss is this side of Eddie Daniels
and that side of John LaPorta. His previous recording, the solo clarinet outing Raising The Bar
(SMS Jazz, 2010), demonstrated Weiss' continued growth, through his legendary practice and listening, into a brilliant second act to a first-rate life.
Weiss begins with a spare and laconic "Alone Together," dramatically displaying the clarinetist's intentions for the remainder of the disc. Weiss' approach on I'll Be Seeing You
is the musical equivalent to what Salvadore Dali did with the visual arts. Weiss likes playing behind the beat and stretching his passages as far as the next measure. The elasticity Weiss uses in his phrasing adds just enough tension that, once resolved, creates a satisfaction akin to tasting an exceptional red wine...a real spark to the head. And sometimes that resolution is not what is expected, making the experience all the sweeter.
Weiss also allows this elasticity into his soloing, taking it to a slippery extreme. I'll Be Seeing You
was transferred as first takes with no overdubs, giving the recording a bit of a high-wire feel. On Tadd Dameron
's "Our Delight," Weiss expels flourishes throughout his solos that could go in any direction, but Weiss manages to remain close to the song's perimeter. On a hyper-fast "Confirmation," Weiss smooths out Anton Schwartz
complexities before adding his own with his pliant, light-speed phrasing.
On the slower-tempo side of things, Weiss' pacing is measured and sure. "Spring is Here" and "My Funny Valentine" are taken largo
, but never lose their pulse. This is hard to do in a trio setting sans a harmony continuo, but Weiss never bogs down or loses his place. He weaves his ideas together seamlessly and logically, always swinging; whether it is "Bernie's Tune" or "Pennies from Heaven," Weiss treats his subject with respect, but also a familiarity that allows him to take his chancesand, more often than not, improve the music.