Weiss, born in Pennsylvania in 1935, began playing clarinet at the age of nine, studying classical music. The next year he moved to Los Angeles, continuing his classical studies and appearing as a soloist in a number of live TV performances both in L.A. and New York. He was introduced to jazz in high school and it quickly became his major interest. He began practicing 8 to 10 hours a day and gigging around town as much a possible. At 19 he was drafted, played in the Army band and began forming his own groups after his discharge. But in 1965 he fell victim to some of the excesses of the entertainment industry and decided to give up the musician life altogether.
Weiss went to work for a music store, eventually managing a chain of stores before opening his own, The Sheet Music Shoppe, which has been in business for 23 years and is one of the premier print music stores in the West. But in July of 2001 he came across a flyer at a nearby college, recruiting players for a jazz combo, and the love affair was reborn. By October he had started playing regularly again and has been playing ever since.
Weiss’ love of jazz is obvious and it’s great to see someone that has given up the instrument for such a long period of time finding joy in playing again. But it’s also obvious that the long layoff has left him with some severe technical limitations - particularly in the areas of tone, timing and the crispness and fluidity of his key work. However, that being said, the most important thing about Weiss’ playing - the most important thing about any artist worth his salt - is the passion that he feels and expresses in his playing, and that definitely cannot be denied. When you listen past the technical shortcomings you hear the heart of a serious musician that is working out some great ideas in his solos.
This album, all standards, also displays his fearlessness as he tackles some tough, very up-tempo bebop that would be challenging even to a player that had been playing continuously for the past 40 years. Of course, it certainly doesn’t hurt that he has two of the most renowned musicians on the scene today backing him - Ron Eschete on guitar and Dave Carpenter on bass. The playing of these two great musicians is worth the price of the CD alone. But don’t buy it just for that. Buy it to support a true artist and one that hopefully will continue to play and record for many years to come.