Review by Brad Walseth
Mark Weinstein is well known within the world music community, but perhaps less recognized by the general jazz listener. Making his name early on as a revolutionary jazz trombonist with Eddie Palmieri's and Larry Harlow's salsa bands of the '60s and '70s, he also recorded and/or toured with people like Tito Puente, Maynard Ferguson, Herbie Mann, Joe Henderson, Cal Tjader, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Clark Terry, and Lionel Hampton. 1967 saw the release of Weinstein's album - "Cuban Roots," a recording featuring Chick Corea on piano that took the jazz community by surprise with its merging of folkloric Brazilian drum styles with West African drumming, free jazz and complex jazz harmonic structures. Unfortunately, the album was too far ahead of its time and although extremely influential on later generations, received almost no airplay at the time. Discouraged, Weinstein briefly quit the music business and became a professor at Montclair State, where he remains today. Several years ago, Weinstein switched to flute and has recorded several albums of music on the flute that continue to explore the combination of traditional folk music styles within the jazz idiom. His latest recording is called O Nosso Amor (Our Love) after the Jobim/Moraes tune from the Black Orpheus soundtrack that is included on this album.
The flute is not as often featured in North American samba/bossa nova contexts, but in Brazil, it was often the primary solo instrument for choro performances. Choro, (pronounced SHOH-roh) is the precursor to samba and bossa nova, and is considered the equivalent of ragtime or the blues for South America. The definition of choro is "cry," and it is usually played by a trio of flute (sax or clarinet), guitar (or mandolin) and cavaquinho (a small chordophone with 4 strings). The melody instruments are backed by a rhythm section composed of guitar, 7-string guitar or bass and light percussion. The master of the choro form was master flautist/improviser Alfredo da Rocha Vianna, Jr. or "Pixinguinha" (1897-1973) who has been called the "Bach of choro" due to the complexity of his music, and indeed this music displays intricate structures perhaps not immediately apparent. Weinstein features two of Pixinguinha's choros including the haunting "Naquele Tempo," (At That Time) where he plays the seldom used bass flute with its wonderful rich dark tone.
Nor does Weinstein ignore his other instruments, as he plays the soprano flute on the "Falando de Amor," and alto flute on the samba "Por Causa de Voce" (Because of You) - both Antonio Carlos Jobim compositions. This range of timbres gives the recording a sense of variety even though the flautist is the primary soloist. But he is not the only one, as guitarist Romero Lubambo adds some fine guitar work, especially on his original up-tempo carnival march "Frevo Camarada." Bassist Nilson Matta contributes some choice playing, along with a composition of his own ("Sampa 67"), and bandleader Weinstein adds two pieces of his own ("Batucada" and "Marka Som") to go with the versions of the often-covered "Bahia" and Gilberto's "Lugar Comum" (Common Place). Kudos should also be given to drummer Paulo Braga, and percussionists Guilherme Franco and Jorge Silva who keep the music moving and dancing throughout.
This time of year especially, a trip to Rio may be just what Doctor Jazz orders. This delightful album is the next best thing to being on the beach at carnvival time and is highly recommended for your mental health.