On Second Thought: Mort Weiss – Raising The Bar (2010)

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I tend to regard unaccompanied solo records as a pretty good indicator as to how well that musician can play their instrument.

Even if they play so well a capella, though, that doesn’t necessarily make it a great record. It can so easily devolve into a “look how good I am” exercise at the expense of playing actual music.

Luckily, some of today’s top players like Matthew Shipp and Vijay Iyer avoided those traps with their solo records this year. And, while this one didn’t get as much press, so did Mort Weiss’ clarinet-only Raising The Bar. All but three of the songs are standards, and I’m struck by how he makes the old melodies recognizable by stating a mere few notes in the right places, then proceed to make these staples his own.

Raising The Bar caps an inspiring comeback from someone who had abandoned music altogether for decades after getting caught up with all the vices that came with being a jazz saxophonist in the ’60s. Given his life story, his album ending rendition of “My Way” becomes a very intimate, autobiographical statement to the point of even making you forget about Sinatra.

That’s a pretty strong personal stamp.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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