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March 29, 2006

CD Review Jazz Guitarist Danny Weis

Written by
cindy mcleod

CD Review / Jazz Instrumental
Danny Weis / Sweet Spot
Marshmellow Records / 2006

Danny Weis may be best known for his days with the rock supergroups Iron Butterfly and Rhinoceros, but the man is as well rounded a musician as any that ever walked the earth. His new release Sweet Spot delivers a solid jazz punch with sixteen tasteful tracks and over fifty minutes of superb music in a modern take on classic styles.

Guitarist Weis a musician of great virtuosity, displaying deft technique, a deep understanding of music and his instrument, a gift for songwriting, and a respectful, graceful approach. There’s evidence of a number of influences in the sound, George Benson, Earl Klug, Kenny Burrell and many others pop into mind as you listen to these tracks, but the sound is all his own. In a brave move, Weis has offered up snippets of musical ideas rather than complete songs, mingled with short musical interludes. The result is a highly listenable, relaxing sound that is the perfect accompaniment for nearly any activity. Joining Weis for the Toronto recording date are fellow Canadians (Weis has relocated from the U.S.), Rich Brown (bass), Jorn Andersen (drums), Richard Bell, Lou Pomanti, and Michael Fonfara (keyboards), Vern Dorge and Pol Coussee (saxophones), Jason Logue (trumpet), Armondo Borg (percussion), and for the one vocal track, singers Byram Joseph, Latoya, and Miranda. The bulk of the tracks are Weis’ compositions, with two standards and two co-writes. All bring Weis’ vision to full fruition in sympathetic and supportive performances.

The CD showcases Weis in a wide variety of styles, and although this is entirely his recording, it is without a doubt an ensemble sound. From the first and title track “Sweet Spot” Weis establishes a sound that is slightly retro, yet firmly plants his feet in a contemporary genre. The operative word here is groove, with a jazz take on funk, R&B, fusion, blues and even country feels. His work flows effortlessly over a meaty bottom end, with keyboards, horns and percussion filling out the sound. “Country Licks”, one of the delightful interludes, is jaw-dropping in it’s technical wizardry, with Weis evoking the influences of the great masters of Atkins, Lenny Breau, and the man who spent a lot of time in the family home when he was a child, Barney Kessel, a friend of Weis’ musician father. For “Apricot Brandy”, Weis enlists fellow Rhinoceros bandmember Michael Fonfara to co-write and perform on this lively blues shuffle. “Turn it Up” is a funkified smooth jazz offering, a quiet, reflective track that showcases the artist in both on both electric and acoustic guitars. “East of the Sun” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” feature Weis in a solo acoustic setting, and upon hearing these tracks one would assume the man had played jazz guitar for many lifetimes with the rich harmonic approach taken. The single vocal cut “Keep the Faith” takes the sound in a Gospel direction, complete with B3 and the lush choral group lifting it to glorious heights. There are many standout tracks among the many offered, adding a serious jazz music credit to the man’s formidable talents.

Weis may have already carved an impressive career over the decades, but we can only hope that he’ll produce more of this fine music for many more. “Sweet Spot” is a much- welcomed addition to the great jazz talent to be found in Canada. Highly recommended.

Cindy McLeod
www.jazzelements.com

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