Mark Weinstein - Seasoning
Released in 1996 on LKC Productions, Mark Weinstein's Seasoning marks Weinstein's return to recording after a twenty year "sabbatical". And what a way to announce "I'm back!" Yes, Mark Weinstein's definitely back, with a vengeance.
When he switched from 'bone to flute in the 1970s, Weinstein's aim was to extend the jazz flute and play it with the breadth and fluency of the sax. This he clearly has achieved, and with a very distinctive voice too. Seasoning, although perhaps not intentionally, gave notice to (the late great) Herbie Mann that finally, here was another player to be seriously reckoned with in the field of the jazz flute, a true contender for the throne that Mann had occupied in such lonely splendour for so long, unlike the many lightweight pretenders thus far.
For this "come-back" album, Mark Weinstein picked Vic Juris, guitar, Cecil Brooks III, drums, Bryan Carrott, vibes and marimba, Dwayne Dolphin, bass, Chris White, bass, and Rob Reich, guitar, for his "running mates", and very well chosen they prove too. Of course, flute and vibes and flute and marimba have always made for one of the most attractive of combinations of timbre (flute and steel pan would be my personal choice for another), and I doubt that anybody could have chosen better. Add in Vic Juris' bluesy guitar, and you're definitely onto a winner.
Seasoning is very much a straight-ahead album of classic jazz standards, with three Weinstein originals. The range of styles covered include bebop, swing, bossa, and contemporary. The album tells the story of a life interwoven with the seasons.
The opener of Mark Weinstein's Seasoning is one of three Weinstein originals, Winter Song. The chill is positively palpable, with an icy, crystal-clear flute underscored by the cool, almost ethereal vibes. The Cole Porter classic Night And Day provides the next track, with Weinstein's flute turning romantic, the romance also underscored by the guitar work of Vic Juris and Rob Reich. There is something of a Hot Club Du France feel to this track, a certain je ne se quoi. Room 608 is a driving straight-ahead piece, one of the more bopish numbers on Seasoning, combined with a wonderful swing. The seasons advance with It Might As Well Be Spring, where Bryan Carrott's vibes seem to ramble like a gentle stream in spring, while Mark Weinstein's flute waxes lyrically. This is one of those truly outstanding interpretations that you could go back to again and again and never tire of. You Stepped Out Of A Dream has a dreamy atmosphere to it that's quite extraordinary. Another Weinstein original follows in Walk On Out, a blues with soaring, sizzling flute improvs and sunny guitar soloing taking us on a swinging amble toward summer. It's definitely arrived with the George Gershwin classic Summertime and Carrott's care-free marimba setting the swing, and Weinstein's flute shimmering in the heat, soaring and dancing. There are also extended solos from Dwayne Dolphin's bass and Cecil Brooks' drums. Summertime of course inevitably invites comparison with Herbie Mann's classic extended version in one of his Village Gate performances, but Mark Weinstein gives it his own individual creative and innovative stamp here. At just over five minutes, you really do crave for more though and wish for as extended a performance as Mann's. It's just too good to leave alone, and perhaps Weinstein might come back to this in years to come, if we're lucky. A cool classic Antonio Carlos Jobim bossa nova, Felicidade, follows, as cool as a daiquiri on a hot Brazilian beach, with very lyrical soloing from Weinstein and the guitars of Juris and Reich. This really makes you yearn for a whole Jobim album from Weinstein in his very own style that here brings something new to the bossa. Little Niles brings the joyfulness and innocence of childhood and its playfulness, which ends in a playful game between Weinstein's flute and Juris' electric guitar, finally fading away in exhaustion. The final Weinstein original, Fall Guy, follows and takes us into autumn. Mark Weinstein's soaring bop improvs are the most lyrical that you're ever likely to encounter. The Jerome Kern classic Yesterdays is introspective and melancholy, a gentle duet between Weinstein's flute and Juris' guitar, with a subtle rhythm guitar from Reich. The closer of Seasoning is provided by a witty Thelonious Monk composition, Work, with an extended bass solo from White and subtle, witty, almost restrained improvs from Weinstein's flute.
The excellence of Mark Weinstein's Seasoning would be very hard to overstate. During the twenty-odd years of his "sabbatical", Weinstein hasn't lost anything, on the contrary, he's not only matured but perfected his flute to a dizzyingly high standard that, combined with his gravitas, improvisational chops and sheer innovative genius must leave the young pretenders of jazz flute squirming. Mark Weinstein has made his "return" with incredible style. Seasoning has to be an absolute must-have.
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