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April 2006

Aaron Weinstein
A Handful of Stars

As a jazz violinist, Aaron Weinstein stands out in a conspicuously barren playing field, particularly in the mainstream swing idiom he's chosen as his stomping ground. Yet Weinstein has plenty of quality company when it comes to neoswing, and on his debut album as a leader he surrounds himself with some of the best, including guitarists Bucky and John Pizzarelli.

Only 19 at the time of recording, Weinstein comes out of the Joe Venuti-Stuff Smith school; although he professes admiration for Stephane Grappelli in the liner notes, Weinstein displays more of the gritty swing of the former players than the latter's luscious Gallic charm. Still, Weinstein coaxes his instrument to sing as well as shout; "Let's Get Lost," a duet with John Pizzarelli, who also adds a pleasing vocal, showcases the violinist's lyricism and warmth, as does an extended take on "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me."

Wisely, Weinstein breaks up the string-heavy vibe by incorporating the sumptuous tenor saxophone of Houston Person on four tracks, including a subtle reworking of the Count Basie flag-waver "Dinner With Friends." Virtually nonexistent as his competition may be, Weinstein remains an exceptional newcomer.

Originally published in April 2006
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