Born: April 20, 1935 Primary Instrument: Clarinet
Mort Weiss is a bebop-oriented clarinet player with ten albums as leader to date. After having taken 30-odd years off from playing, Weiss came to musical life as a leader in 2003 with The Mort Weiss Quartet (AKA Mort Wiess Meets Joey DeFrancesco) (SMS Jazz, 2003) following with B3 and Me (recorded in 2003 but not released until 2006). According to jazz writer Scott Yanow, Clarinet-organ groups are far from common. In fact, prior to Mort Weiss' debut CD with organist Joey DeFrancesco, it is possible that combination had never been utilized before. Indeed, but this didn't stop Weiss and DeFrancesco from doing so.
Born in 1935 in Pennsylvania, Weiss began clarinet lessons when he was nine-years old. After moving with his family to Los Angeles, he continued playing classical music, and during his teens studied with the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra's esteemed clarinetist, Antonio Remondi. After graduation and a year at the Westlake School of Music, the precocious teenaged Weiss soloed on several T.V. programs with the Freddie Martin Orchestra, a.k.a. The Band of Tomorrow.
Weiss' exposure to jazz began with Dixieland. But, when he first heard a Charlie Parker record, that was when he was hooked. He frequented jazz clubs, participating in after- hours jam sessions, and spending many hours in the woodshed honing his craft. Be bop clarinetist Buddy DeFranco became his idol.
At the age of 19, Weiss was drafted into the Armed Services and played tenor sax in the Army band. In the ten years following his discharge, there was a dearth of work for jazz clarinetists and the tenor saxophone became his bread and butter. Weiss' life became lounges, minor jazz clubs, and work in R&B bands.
Enter the 1960s. Travelling in the proverbial fast lane became a rapid trip down the wrong speedway. Weiss eventually found himself in jail, buck naked, his life in total shambles, playing the wrong instrument to support a dead-end life style. In that moment of clarity, Weiss decided to put everything down, including playing music. His love affair with his horn, that harshest of mistresses, was put on hiatus.
Unable to disassociate himself from music completely, Weiss began working at a music store. He eventually became District Manager for the company's chain, and in 14 years opened his own store, The Sheet Music Shoppe, in Santa Ana. Under Weiss' direction, The Sheet Music Shoppe grew into the largest purveyor of printed music in Southern California.
In the summer of 2001, Weiss read an advertising flyer that asked Do You Want To Play Jazz? The timing was perfect. It was enough to make him dust off his clarinet case, begin practicing, and soon invite guitarist Ron Eschete to jam. Their collaboration led to a recording session that became the 2-CD set No Place to Hide, the first release of Weiss' own, newly created SMS Jazz label.
Between 2003 and 2012, SMSJazz produced nine more recordings featuring Weiss and talented musicians such as Joey DeFrancisco, Ramon Banda, Dave Carpenter, Roy McCurdy, Luther Hughes, and Sam Most.
Weiss' latest release, I'll Be Seeing You (SMS Jazz, 2012), is a quartet affair, featuring drummer Roy McCurdy, bassist Chris Conner and percussionist Ramon Banda. It is a modified clarinet trio related in spirit to Sonny Rollins' famous trios of the late 1950s. Lacking a harmony instrument, pressure is placed on Weiss and Conner to infer the harmonic structures usually provided by the piano or guitar.
Weiss considers I'll Be Seeing You to contain his most fully-realized playing to date.
Mort Weiss - I'll Be Seeing You (SMS Jazz, 2012)
Mort Weiss - Raising The Bar: The Definitive Mort Wiess (SMS Jazz, 2012)
Mort Weiss - Mort Weiss Meets Bill Cunliffe (SMS Jazz, 2011)
Mort Weiss - All Too Soon: A Jazz Duet for Clarinet and Seven String Guitar (SMS Jazz, 2008)
Mort Weiss - Mort Weiss: The B3 and Me (SMS Jazz, 2006)
Mort Weiss - Mort Weiss Meets Sam Most (SMS Jazz, 2006)
Mort Weiss - The Four of Us (SMS Jazz, 2005)
Mort Weiss - The Three of Us (SMS Jazz, 2004)
Mort Weiss - The Mort Weiss Quartet (AKA Mort Wiess
Meets Joey DeFrancesco (SMS Jazz, 2003)
Mort Weiss - Now Place to Hide (SMS Jazz, 2003)
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