A month long look at jazz wouldn't be complete without a glimpse of Mort Weiss, or this album in particular. The sad thing is, The B3 and Me easily might not have been recorded. But once it was, getting it heard was an even harder task.
You wouldn't know it by listening to this album, but it's an absolutely incredible fact that Mort Weiss actually gave up his clarinet and music in general for nearly four decades. That's one heck of a break, and one can only imagine what this album might sound like if he hadn't taken the time off. Don't misconstrue that to think there is anything at all unpleasant about this album, quite the opposite, in fact.
For me personally, when I think of great jazz, the clarinet and the Hammond B3 are not the first two instruments to come to mind. The horns and rhythm section are often more pleasing to my ear, so I was very pleasantly surprised at just how much I enjoyed the combination of the two instruments, the songs individually, and the album as a whole. That keyboard virtuoso who plays so well with Weiss is Joey DeFrancesco. Craig Ebner on guitar and Byron Landham on drums round out the quartet.
Weiss is the first to admit it's not a popular instrument to the genre. In an interview on All About Jazz he says, “I was working Vegas and all that with the tenor sax on shows and so on. Nobody hired clarinet players in jazz then, and they don’t today. The instrument fell out of vogue when Bird hit the scene. The clarinet doesn’t lend itself.” But if you listen to this album, and Mort Weiss Meets Sam Most (which will be reviewed in depth later this month) you really begin to wonder why. It all fits together so well.
From the opening notes of the opening track, "Ornithology" you get a sense of the direction taken. The tone is set and it's a very fun groove. The song, as well as much of the album, has an improvisational feel, though highly polished. As you move from piece to piece, track to track, there is an ebb and a flow that keeps that feel consistent, and though every track has a staple, typical sound, Weiss, DeFrancesco, and group still make them shine.
Standout tracks include the "Falling in Love with Love," "Love Letters," and "Yesterdays." "Love Letters" is unique in the way it stands out from the rest of the album. Slow, wistful, and not in the same vein as the remaining tracks, the song is still brilliant and very emotive. Through the notes played you truly feel the soft, sensual sensations, and the longing need of love. The song is in strict contrast to "Falling in Love with Love," which bounces and swings with the euphoria of a new attraction.
The real shame is the extended break from music Weiss took, and then the legal wrangling that was necessary with Concord to allow the disc to be released (because of their contract with Joey DeFrancesco). It kept the CD out of our clutches and the music away from our ears for much longer than it should have been. Make sure you read the liner notes for the full story told by Weiss himself. And also make sure you add Mort Weiss' The B3 and Me to your collection soon.