It seems as though I’m on a roll when it comes to reviewing new albums by unusual instrumental duos. Recently I spotlighted a twosome who combined a trumpet with an African kora, and a while before that I reviewed an album by a couple of guys playing tuba and harmonica.
This time around the instruments themselves are more conventional, but the combination is still a little different. All Too Soon, a new release on the SMS Jazz label, stars reclusive clarinetist Mort Weiss accompanied by the solid 7-string guitar work of Ron Eschete — and it’s not the first time they’ve teamed up.
Weiss’ story is a little unusual too. He was born in Pennsylvania but spent much of his childhood in California, and along the way received a classical musical education that included time in the Westlake School of Music. As a teenager he made a number of appearances on TV and at local events, and eventually gravitated toward jazz.
By the decade of the Sixties, Weiss had added tenor sax to his skills and was an active part of the professional music scene as both a performer and the leader of his own group. But as time passed he found that if he played the music he preferred, success seemed to elude him. That and other problems caused him to finally throw in the towel on performing.
Although he continued to play on his own, for many years he stayed out of the spotlight, devoting himself to building a successful West Coast music store, but a few years ago the performing itch returned. He chose old friend Eschete to help, and in 2001 the duo recorded the double-album No Place To Hide for their newly-formed SMS Jazz label. Since then Weiss has returned to occasional club work and has also been a part of several other albums.
Teaming up again with Eschete on All Too Soon, he gives us a nice collection of pieces that are mostly bebop-flavored, with a few traditional tunes thrown into the mix, along with a surprise or two. His comfort level with Eschete is obvious, and the guitarist does get in some nice licks of his own, but Weiss is the star here.
Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple From The Apple” opens the album, and immediately shows Weiss’ boldness as he measures his clarinet play against the legend. He’s also included another bop classic, “Blue Monk,” a track that seems to especially demonstrate his improvisational skills. But Weiss isn’t bashful about doing that — even the standards are seldom played straight, and that makes them extra special. My favorite was probably “Like Someone In Love,” with “Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise,” a close second. An honorable mention goes to the soft and simply melodic “Emily.”
A nice addition to the legacy of Mort Weiss’ revitalized career — recommended.