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Mark Weinstein: Straight No Chaser

A former salsa trombonist during the ’60s with Eddie Palmieri, Cal Tjader, Tito Puente and Larry Harlow, Mark Weinstein dropped out of the music scene entirely in the ’70s to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy with a specialization in mathematical logic. He re-emerged in the ’90s as a flutist and has since released a string of appealing Afro-Cuban- and Brazilian-flavored CDs.

But on Straight No Chaser, Weinstein is playing strictly jazz, and blowing with remarkable fluency and authority. As if to clearly establish his jazz credentials right up front, he comes out of the gate blazing on “Loverin’,” a swinging showcase based on the changes to the standard “Lover.” His world-class crew of drummer Victor Lewis, bassist Ed Howard and guitarist Dave Stryker handles all the unison hits here with precision and aplomb while Weinstein sails freely over the top. Stryker’s solo against Howard’s unerring pulse and Lewis’ masterful, interactive touch on the kit is outstanding, and the guitarist also cleverly works the changes to Trane’s “Countdown” into the fabric of this supercharged track.

They mellow out on Wayne Shorter’s beautiful 3/4 vehicle, “Miyako,” which is underscored by Lewis’ sensitive brushwork and Stryker’s pianistic comping on acoustic guitar. Weinstein digs into the medium-tempo groove of his “Blues for Janice” and blows with abandon, then reveals a delicate way with ballads on a relaxed, soulful reading of “Violets for Your Furs.” Elsewhere, they swing with exuberance on Sonny Rollins’ “Airegin,” expertly navigate through the tricky time-shifting of Weinstein’s “Sleeping Beauty,” and alternate between a “Poinciana” bounce and a straightforward swing vibe on an inventive rendition of “Invitation.” For an added treat, Weinstein plays Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser” on bass flute, with Lewis putting up an infectious N’awlins-flavored second-line groove and Stryker contributing some earthy six-string statements and Wes-isms along the way.

While Weinstein has flown under the radar for the past two decades, this jazzy offering may serve notice to critics and fans alike that, at age 68, he is indeed a talent deserving of wider recognition.

Originally Published