Review by Brad Walseth
After three album releases in recent years exploring the Latin/Cuban/Brazilian side of the musical spectrum, flautist Mark Weinstein is back with a new album that finds the artist playing it straight. Backed by veteran drummer Victor Lewis and bassist Ed Howard, and joined by highly regarded guitarist Dave Stryker, "Straight No Chaser" finds the prolific bandleader veering into a straight-ahead bebop direction with tasty results.
Weinstein contributes three originals to the project, including the opening "Loverin'," based on the changes to Rogers & Hart's "Lover," which features Weinstein's skittering flute paired with Stryker's limber guitar and Lewis' locomotive drumming. Wayne Shorter's "Mikayo" receives a delicate treatment with harmonic flute overdubs, while other covers include the title track (with Weinstein on bass flute) and a broiling take on the oft-covered “Invitation.” Perhaps the highlight is a cover of Sonny Rollins' "Airegin," which seems to gain new life in Weinstein's flute somersaults.
The combination of talents on this recording works extremely well together. The rhythm section is solid and Weinstein again shows his fine and ever-growing talent on the flute (amazingly he started as a trombonist) and as a composer. His "Sleeping Beauty" shifts beautifully between waltz-time and straight ahead and several other permutations seemingly effortlessly. Besides his impressive string work, Stryker adds two wonderful guitar-centric compositions, including the haunting "Shanti" that is the centerpiece of the album, and the lovely "Crianza" that features a chewy good bass solo from Howard, twittering bird call–like flute from Weinstein, and ends the album leaving the listener with the desire to hear more from this configuration in the future.