Mark Weinstein came to the flute late in life, but his mastery of the instrument is never in question on Jazz Brasil. Initially a trombonist with a penchant for Latin jazz—he worked with Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente and others in the ’60s—Weinstein dropped out of music in the ’70s to study philosophy, and then re-emerged as a flutist of considerable agility and intelligence. While salsa is still an important focus—his other most recent album, Timbasa, includes several highly percussive Afro-Cuban tracks—he seems more at home within the less-restrictive rhythms of Brazil.
Alternating between standard, alto and bass flutes, Weinstein surrounds himself with an ace team here: Nilson Matta on bass, Marcello Pellitteri handling drums and percussion and the always brilliant Kenny Barron on piano. The flutist and pianist establish a simpatico relationship early on, in a brisk take on Monk’s “I Mean You,” and sustain it throughout the recording. On Wayne Shorter’s “Nefertiti,” Barron owns the first easygoing, introspective solo, then falls back in support of the flutist as Matta and Pellitteri take their time exploring inventive ways to fill the spaces left by the other two.
Weinstein favors a handful of well-known composers here—there’s a second Monk tune, the tender “Ruby, My Dear”; two from Jobim; Joe Henderson’s funky, airy “Isotope” (featuring Metta and Pellitteri); and an entertaining remake of Herbie Mann’s iconic “Memphis Underground” that shows off everyone’s strengths but never approaches the source material’s fire. But the two consecutive tracks authored by band members—Matta’s chipper “Sambosco” and Weinstein’s moody “Dawn’s Early Light”—are the equal of anything else here. As fine an interpreter as he is, Weinstein might want to consider a set of all-original music next time out. He’s earned it.