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Mark Weinstein: Jazz Brasil

Jerry D'Souza By

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Mark Weinstein had a long journey across the trail of music instruments before he settled on the flute. He first played the piano when he was six. He then tried the clarinet and the drums before gravitating to the trombone and string bass in high school. The trombone was the mainstay for quite a while, and he went on to play it with Eddie Palmieri. He finally found his muse in the flute, when he returned to music after a stint as a college professor.

Weinstein is well-grounded in the several facets of Latin music, with a firm cleave of the genre in all its manifestations. A string of recordings attest to this, with Jazz Brasil underscoring his abilities in no uncertain terms.

The selections on the release include some genre staples, but there are also compositions by Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Mann. Monk is perfectly cast; not only does Kenny Barron, one of the most stimulating pianists of modern times, have a particular affinity for Monk, but Weinstein breathes new life into the tunes. It's a fertile partnership, with "I Mean You" and "Ruby My Dear" standing as two disparate pillars. The former jumps up bright and raring to go with Barron setting the tempo. Weinstein caresses the melody and bloods it as he darts in and across the changes. Barron pushes the edges, draws back and opens up a well of scintillating ideas. It's a hot and intense opener. The latter is woven in the silken folds of the flute, undulating gently in the soft tonality. Barron is crisp, stoking the song gently, letting lyrical textures float in.

Shorter's "Nefertiti" has a lithe, ruminative spirit that flows softly from the flute. Barron plays repeated motifs that he enunciates with just enough emphasis to dig into the groove. The dynamics of this approach are impeccable and mark the way an imaginative arrangement can imbue a tune with new passion. Weinstein uses the bass flute on Mann's '60s hit, "Memphis Underground," a song that has not faded with time, its mood still irresistible as bassist Nilson Matta has a field day, peppering the beat with a pliant pulse.

If one standard is to be singled out it may as well be "Brazil." The flute wafts in before the percussion kicks in and the melody billows and seizes the moment. Time has not effaced the innate beauty and power of this song and the band adds to its enduring presence.

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