By Don Heckman
The full house crowd at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. Tuesday night may not have had a great deal of familiarity with Aaron Weinstein, the headline act. But it’s a fair bet that by the end of the gifted young violinist’s 90 minute set, a good portion of the audience felt they had just seen an intriguing new jazz star in the making.
Weinstein, still in his twenties, has already established considerable visibility in his New York City home. But he’s been virtually unknown on the West Coast – a situation which is hopefully in the process of changing with future bookings.
However, to describe Weinstein as a “violinist” doesn’t completely grasp the unexpected range of his talents, which illuminated his music with a Woody Allen-like sense of humor and one whimsical tale after another.
Coming on stage at Vibrato, wearing a suit and a bowtie, looking as though he’d just come from his Bar Mitzvah, Weinstein opened his set with a threat to perform some Schoenberg 12-tone compositions, a threat fortunately unfulfilled before he dug into a program of Songbook standards, introduced with amusing commentaries.
The first was “Cheek to Cheek,” followed by “Easter Parade,” which he dedicated to “My people, the Jews.” Before he played “I Want To Be Happy,” he noted his difficulty with the song’s “disconnect between the lovely melody and the co-dependent lyrics.” On ‘Sleeping Bee,” he introduced the Truman Capote/Harold Arlen song with a Capote line describing a character “as out of place as a violinist in a jazz band.”
Weinstein played each of these tunes – as well as others such as “Georgia On My Mind,” “Til’ There Was You,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Somebody Loves Me” – with style and imagination. At times, his slower phrasing recalled the jazz violin of Stephane Grappelli. But in the faster tunes he applied his virtuosic technical skills to stunningly inventive improvising, often delivered at Autobahn-speed tempos.
Further displaying his abilities, he occasionally switched to violin pizzicato lines. And, in mid-set, he moved from violin to mandolin to play “Over the Rainbow” and “Paper Moon.” Here, too, he revealed a remarkable musical range of abilities.
Weinstein was backed with warm creative empathy by pianist Tom Rainier and bassist Pat Senatore. Both are veteran accompanists, providing intimate interaction in the ensemble passages and impressive soloing of their own.
By the time Weinstein had finished a set overflowing with clever wit and memorable music, he had thoroughly tamed Vibrato’s usually noisy crowd. And he’d also convincingly introduced himself to Los Angeles as a talent with a sky’s-the-limit future.
Aaron Weinstein has one more performance at Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. tonight. Don’t miss it. This young man is one of a kind.
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Photos by Faith Frenz.