Mark Weinstein is strictly an amateur jazz flutist. This could be taken to mean less than competent, but the word, derived from the French amour, can be translated as “lover of,” i.e. someone who does something purely for the love of it. In my book, it is a compliment. (Until 1952, for example, only an amateur could captain the English cricket team!)

Weinstein paid his dues as a professional musician in a previous incarnation–as a trombonist in the 60s and 70s, helping to develop the Latin trombone style, while working with the likes of Chick Corea, Cal Tjader, Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Herbie Mann, Maynard Ferguson, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Lionel Hampton and Clark Terry. Subsequently, however, he abandoned the trombone, took up the flute, earned a PhD in Philosophy, and became a professor at Montclair State University.

Since then, Weinstein has, just for the love of it, produced a number of fine recordings, each one notable for its careful selection of sideman and attention to detail in the researching and choice of material. And they run the gamut of genres, Cuban, Brazilian, Jewish… a breadth of styles many record company executives would frown on. But Weinstein markets his own stuff, with Jazzheads Records, and makes his own decisions.

Mark’s most recent offering, released September 4th, consists of Latin-oriented treatments of classic jazz standards along with a handfull of originals. He described the background to the session in an interview with Tomas Pena at EjazzNews, who asked him about his concept, and why he chose this particular group of musicians.

“My notoriety in the Latin Jazz community is still based on my 1967 trombone recording, Cuban Roots, and the two sequels on flute, Cuban Roots Revisited (2001) and Algo Mas (2005). It is of an avant-garde player of Afro-Cuban folkloric-based jazz. I had also recorded a number of albums of Brazilian jazz, Tudo de Bom (2003) and O Nosso Amor (2005). I decided to make a mainstream Latin jazz album to broaden the presentation of my music and make it more radio friendly. The key was to hire one of my oldest friends in the business, Mark Levine, to perform and co-produce the album. Mark has very deep roots in Latin Jazz and is a great jazz pianist with nothing to prove. I knew any project that he participated in would be deep and musical. Once Mark agreed, we chose a selection of classic material by Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter as the core and then added other material to round out the album.”

Suffice to say that everything works beautifully. Mark Levine was an inspired choice–his piano work is the glue that holds the whole sound together, and he solos with authority. Debriano, Herrera and Martinez understand the material and the genre perfectly; they don’t put a foot wrong throughout the session. And Weinstein carries the melody lines, and solos, with his own unique voice, moving between C, alto, and bass flutes to add variety to the sound. Above all, the meeting of minds between the two Marks–Weinstein %26 Levine–has produced a program of both variety and balance. It is great to hear compositions by Gillespie, Monk, Wayne Shorter, Mulgrew Miller and Bobby Hutcherson. The Coltrane piece, “Crescent,” even though one of his Impulse! albums is named after it, is one of his lesser known, and it is great to hear it revived; it shares a prayer-like quality with “Lonnie’s Lament,” recently recorded by Anat Cohen on her Poetica album. Along with these pieces, originals by Weinstein, “Broadway Local,” Levine, “La Coneja Loca,” and Debriano, “Santi’s Africaleidescope,” fit happily alongside the jazz classics–sufficient praise in itself.

As an amateur, Weinstein probably loses money on these projects; I know he is often out-of-pocket after many of his own gigs. But there is no need for him to lose too much, so run out (actually go online) and buy this as soon as possible!

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