Joey DeFrancesco Projects Showed The Difference Between Music, And The Music "Business"

Mort Weiss By

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This is the story of two collaborations with Joey DeFrancesco that you almost never saw—or the difference between music ... and the music "business."

The first unreleased album I recorded with Joey DeFrancesco is now known as the Mort Weiss Quartet CD featuring Joey, Ron Eschete and Ramon Banda, followed by 2006's The B3 and Me. Both of them eventually appeared on my own SMS Jazz label, but more on that in a minute.

The original title of the first album was Mort Weiss Meets Joey DeFrancesco, while the follow up was to have been The Joey DeFrancesco Trio featuring Mort Weiss. It was Joey who suggested this to help further my jazz clarinet-playing career. He liked the way I played, and was very supportive of my continuing to play.

We planned to release both of them during the summer of 2003. Joey and I were a little too excited about being musicians and just playing our asses off. I figured since Joey had recorded with many other artists, there would be no problems. Concord Records thought differently.

Joey and I forgot it is the music "business."

I had, through my distributors, placed the original Mort Meets Joey album in all the stores: Tower, Borders, Virgin, etc. Oh, by the way, Concord was getting ready to release their big CD of the season Joe Doggs, and was afraid our CD would hurt their sales.

Bottom line: All the press and radio promotion, club dates, etc., were in order when I was told to stop all the publicity and pull the CDs off the market. Concord decided I could release the CD with the title changed to Mort Weiss Quartet—as long as Joey's name was in small print.

Most of you know my story about giving up music completely for 40 years, and how I came back on the scene in August 2001. So, I had practically no name recognition. I had been, by and large, lucky since my return. World-renowned critics, writers and many of you who are reading this have given my work the highest praise. But now I had to change all of the graphics, all of the artwork and take out a great picture of Joey and all of us on the inside panel, then reissue the whole project once again—at a cost of thousands of dollars.

That was was never recouped. (If you do a Google search on Mort Weiss, you can will find some stores that call the first CD by its original name!) At the time, it was one of the best things any of us had done, musically, and at the same time the worst-selling CD I've ever done.

Fuck it. Onward!: In 2006, I ended up issuing an album called Mort Weiss: The B3 and Me, "featuring a very special guest: The finest jazz organist in the world." No mention of Joey! Why?

I have to repeat this: Joey did everything possible to help me in my musical career. The clarinet and B3 had never recorded before! I received a message on my voicemail one day. It was Joey. I had sent him a studio copy of the second CD. He said: "This record is a bitch! It has to be released!" Then he reiterated that he would do everything in his power to make it happen.

Alas, it was to no avail. Concord would not budge on its position that this CD would never be released. I called and talked to them many times, trying to work out some agreement, but they remained firm.

Life has to go on, so I finally put the CD away in a drawer and closed it—literally and figuratively. When Joey and I would talk, we would lament the fact that it would never be released. Fast forward to April 2006, and I listened again to The Joey CD—as we called it—and was stunned by how great it sounded after all these years. I mixed and mastered it, and it was even better! Once again, I sent Joey a copy and found he was still excited about releasing it.

There followed about 30 phone calls to Concord. I even offered to give them the masters, and all of the profits—telling them Joey and I just wanted this released, if only for the sake of the shit we got going that night. (Altruism at its best!) The final edict from Concord was this: I could release it, but only if Joey's name didn't appear anywhere on the CD or on the radio or in any publicity—nor could his likeness or any part of his persona be used in any way to promote this album.

Only then would they be so nice as to let me go ahead. Thank you, John Burk.

I guess they thought only a fool or an idiot would accept this kind of deal. They hadn't counted on someone being both! Oh, and a true lover of the music!

Always the music.
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