It might seem foolhardy to many to take a chance and make an entire record based on “charanga”; perceived as rather old-fashioned too considering the rising eminence of the goldmine of what is now salsa—a common misnomer for all things Afro-Cuban. But not for flute maestro, Mark Weinstein, who, four years ago in a great leap of faith—literally—made, with Omar Sosa, Tales From The Earth a record that raised the spirit of the Holocaust and indeed the spirit of all who perished in the hatred of racism (Ota, 2009). That was certainly a lot more risqué and unfashionable compared to this record; still, however, the fact is that Weinstein will not shy away from taking a chance on almost anything. Another fact about the flutist—borne out yet again on this record—is that he has the uncanny knack of finding the finest musical associates to collaborate with on projects. A case in point: the monstrously talented Cuban born pianist, Aruán Ortiz, who has not only played magnificently on this record, but who has also contributed the most exquisite and authentic “charanga” arrangements on this album.
The album literally explodes from the gates with an up-tempo version of “El Cumbanchero,” not only a title track, but a torch song for an era of music and dance that is all but forgotten about Cuba, a country that is bristles with an almost magical musical heritage. The record also pulsates with the undying heart of a classic “charanga” ensemble. There is the virtuoso artistry of flutist, Weinstein at the helm of affairs; but his art is also elevated by two magnificent string, bass and rhythm sections. The first is one consisting of violinists Francisco Salazar and Everhard Parades, cellist, Brian Sanders and on all but one of this ensemble’s tracks, the conguero, Yusnier Sánchez Bustamante. Not only does this ensemble bristle with energy and kinetics on “El Cumbanchero,” but it also shocks the body into involuntary dancing on “La Mulata Rumbera” and Sindo Garay’s classic “Perla Marina”.
The second ensemble comprises violinist Marc Szammer and Elena Rojas Crocker; plus virtuoso cellist Aristides Rivas. This group, together with Weinstein and Ortiz is responsible for the sublime work on the reverential “Doña Olga” as well as “Armoniosos de Amalia,” “Danzón de Liz” and the wistful “Contigo en la Distancia”. The two originals from the pen of Ortiz, “; Aruancó” and the frisky “Av. Pintor Tapiro” are played by just Weinstein, Ortiz and the majestic rhythm section including master percussionist Mauricio Herrera on conga, timbales and guiro and the remarkably melodic bassist, Yunior Terry. Aristides Rivas joins the quartet on Ortiz’s “Av. Pintor Tapiro”.
Despite the seemingly traditional setup, Weinstein and Ortiz ring in the changes on almost every chart, breaking free of the formality and rigidity of the programmatic “charanga” charts. The harmonics for the charts flow in new and diaphanous; almost swooning waves of emotion. There is an almost visual element to the flexibility of the bodies of the dancers were these to be present during the recording. As it is the couples pirouetting sensuously in figures of eight are almost conjured up on this record of beauty and utter memorability. But although this aspect of artistry is nothing new for both Mark Weinstein and Aruán Ortiz, it must nevertheless be praised for its splendor.
Tracks: 1. El Cumbanchero; 2. La Mulata Rumbera; 3. Doña Olga; 4. Aruancó; 5. Av. Pintor Tapiro; 6. Perla Marina; 7. Armoniosos de Amalia; 8. Danzón de Liz; 9. Contigo en la Distancia.
Personnel: Mark Weinstein: concert, alto and bass flutes; Aruán Ortiz: piano, arrangements; Yunior Terry: bass; Mauricio Herrera: timbales, conga, guiro; Yusnier Sánchez Bustamante: conga (1, 2, 4); Marc Szammer: violin (3, 7, 8, 9); Elena Rojas Crocker: violin (3, 7, 8, 9); Francisco Salazar: violin (1, 2, 6); Everhard Parades: violin (1, 2, 6); Samuel Marchán: viola; Aristides Rivas: cello (3, 5, 7, 8, 9); Brian Sanders: cello (1, 2, 6).
Label: Jazzheads Records | Release date: November 2011
About Mark Weinstein
Flutist, composer and arranger, Mark Weinstein began his study of music at age six with piano lessons from the neighborhood teacher in Fort Green Projects in Brooklyn where he was raised. Between then and age 14 when he started to play trombone in Erasmus Hall High School, he tried clarinet and drums. Playing his first professional gig on trombone at 15, he added string bass, a common double in NYC at that time.
Mark learned to play Latin bass from Salsa bandleader Larry Harlow. He experimented playing trombone with Harlow’s band and three years later, along with Barry Rogers, formed Eddie Palmieri’s first trombone section, changing the sound of salsa forever. With his heart in jazz, Weinstein was a major contributor to the development of the salsa trombone playing and arranging. He extended jazz attitudes and techniques in his playing with salsa bands. His arrangements broadened the harmonic base of salsa while introducing folkloric elements for authenticity and depth. The only horn in a Latin jazz quintet led by Larry Harlow at the jam session band at Schenks Paramount Hotel in the Catskills, soloist and arranger with Charlie Palmieri in the first trumpet and trombone salsa band in NYC, arranger and featured soloist along with the great Cuban trumpet player Alfredo Chocolate Armenteros in Orchestra Harlow, and with the Panamanian giant Victer Paz in the La Playa Sextet, and with the Alegre All Stars, Mark’s playing and arranging was a major influence on Salsa trombone and brass writing in the 60s and 70s.
In the early 1970?s Mark took time off from music to earn a Ph.D in Philosophy with a specialization in mathematical logic. He became a college professor and remains so until this day. When he returned to the music scene in 1978 playing the flute, he wrote produced and recorded the Orisha Suites with singer Olympia Alfara, the great Colombian jazz pianist Eddy Martinez and percussionists Steve Berrios, Julito Collazo, Papaito and Papiro along with an Afro-Cuban chorus. Unreleased until recently, music from the Orisha Suites became the theme for Roger Dawson’s Sunday Salsa Show on WRVR. Because of limited distribution and more demand that albums available, Mark rerecorded the material from the original Cuban Roots with new arrangements and the help of such giants of Cuban music as pianist Omar Sosa, percussionists Francisco Aquabella, Lazaro Galarraga, John Santos, Jose De Leon, and Nengue Hernandez. It was co-produced with his nephew, trombonist, violinist and arranger Dan Weinstein for Michael McFadin and CuBop Records.
In 2002 Mark had the incredible opportunity to go to Kiev, Ukraine, where his father was born, to record the music of the Ukrainian composer Alexey Kharchenko. Milling Time, the record that they made, stretched his playing in a number of directions, from modern classical music to smooth jazz to Ukrainian folk music. He continued his exploration of his roots with a jazz album of Jewish music with Mike Richmond on bass, Brad Shepik on guitar and Jamey Haddad on drums and percussion. He then turned to Brazil and the music of Hermeto Pascoal’s Calendario do Som, entitled Tudo de Bom with guitarist and vocalist Richard Boukas, Nilson Matta on bass, Paulo Braga on drums and Vanderlei Pereira on percussion.
In 2005 he began his ongoing association with Jazzheads record recording another version of Cuban Roots called Algo Más, with Jean Paul Bourelly playing electric guitar, Santi Debriano on bass, Thelonious Monk award winning percussionist and vocalist Pedrito Martinez, as well as Nani Santiago, Gene Golden and Skip Burney on congas and batá drums. His next release on Jazzheads was O Nosso Amor with Brazilian jazz masters Romero Lubambo, Nilson Matta and Paulo Braga along with percussionists Guilherme Franco and Jorge Silva. This was followed by Con Alma, a Latin Jazz album featuring Mark Levine on piano, Santi Debriano on bass, Pedrito Martinez playing conga and drummer Mauricio Hererra. Next a straight-ahead album, Straight No Chaser, with guitarist Dave Stryker, bassist Ron Howard and Victor Lewis on drums. A return to Brazilian music, Lua e Sol, saw Romero Lubambo and Nilson Mata joined by award winning percussionist Cyro Baptista.
Mark took time out from Jazzheads to record an album for Otá records in Berlin with Grammy nominated pianist Omar Sosa playing vibes, marimbas and piano along with Ali Keita on balafon, Mathais Ogbukoa and Aho Luc Nicaise on African percussion, bassist Stanislou Michalou and Marque Gilmore on drums. Back to Jazzheads, Mark recorded Timbasa with the percussion team of Pedrito Martinez and Mauricio Hererra, joined by Ramon Diaz with the young giants Axel Laugart on piano and bassist Panagiotis Andreou. This was followed by Jazz Brasil with NEH Jazzmaster Kenny Barron on piano along with Nilson Matta and drummer Marcello Pellitteri. His most recent album, El Cumbanchero was recorded with a string ensemble and arranged by Cuban piano virtuoso Aruán Ortiz, along with Yunior Terry on bass and percussionists Mauricio Herrera and Yusnier Bustamante.
Next up is an album of tangos with GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY nominee, bassist Pablo Aslan, and featuring Latin GRAMMY winner Raul Jaurena playing the bandoneon, pianist Abel Rongatoni and guitarist Francisco Navarro. And many more surprises to come.