The Three of Us
After being away from playing for nearly 40 years, the 69-year-old West Coast clarinetist Mort Weiss is back, and he’s on a tear. The Three of Us (SMSJazz), his third album since his return, features Weiss with the superb seven-string guitarist Ron Escheté and virtuoso bassist Dave Carpenter in an excellent program of jazz standards and pop songs favored by jazz players. In spite of having been away from the horn for so long, Weiss still possesses a prodigious technique as well as an airy, emotion-laden tone somewhat reminiscent of Lester Young’s or Zoot Sims’ on clarinet. Indeed, though he can generate abundant excitement on the up tunes, his overall manner seems grounded in the cool school, and sometimes evokes Jimmy Guiffre or even Paul Desmond. And while he can create lyrical phrases of his own, he will also stick close to the tune, as on “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” where he’s obviously content to imbue that classic melody with a poignant soulfulness. Weiss gives Escheté and Carpenter ample room to stretch out and both are at the top of their game.