• Fiddling with Mandolin on Aaron Weinstein's Chesky Jazz Debut 3x3

    Fiddling with Mandolin on Aaron Weinstein's Chesky Jazz Debut 3x3

    Joe Venuti.

    "That was it," says 34-year-old jazzman Aaron Weinstein.

    An Illinois native, Weinstein had been playing old time fiddle since he was in short pants, learning licks and tunes from Old Town School of Folk Music mainstay Paul Tyler and Missouri master Charlie Walden among others.

    But then, at age 13, Weinstein heard Venuti, the undisputed father of jazz violin, playing "Sweet Georgia Brown" on a cassette tape found in his parents' bureau drawer.

    "When I first heard a recording of Joe," he beams, "that really was it. It was the first jazz I'd heard, and it happened to be a violin, and it happened to be Joe Venuti playing that violin."

    Michael EckAbout the author: Roots scholar and multi-instrumentalist Michael Eck is a respected songwriter; a nationally exhibited painter; and an award-winning cultural critic and freelance writer. He is also a member of Ramblin Jug Stompers, Lost Radio Rounders, Berkshire Ramblers and Good Things.

    "He played it as he always did, with such authority, and such a sense of swing and excitement, that I was totally intrigued. When I heard that, I couldn't think of why I would want to do anything else."

    Weinstein’s new Chesky debut album, 3x3, certainly displays that debt to Venuti, with hip, contemporary interpretations of public domain classics like "St. Louis Blues," "Makin’ Whoopee" and "Jada."

    But on four of the disc's tracks, Weinstein sets his Jonathan Cooper-made fiddle aside in favor of the mandolin, and proceeds to — with reserve — wreck the joint with audacious chord melody skills on the eight-string.

    Don Stiernberg.

    It’s his fault.

    "If not for Don," Weinstein admits, "I probably wouldn't be playing the mandolin."

    After binging on Venuti and making the logical progression to Stephane Grappelli, the young Weinstein was hitting a wall. He had no formal classical training to rely on and says, "I was trying to play jazz violin without knowing anything about jazz; I thought I could use some guidance."

    Enter Stiernberg.

    "At the time, I couldn't find a jazz violin teacher, and it didn't occur to me that one doesn't need a jazz violinist in order to learn how to play jazz on the violin. It did occur to me that the mandolin is very close to the violin, as its tuned the same. And I knew that Don lived one town away from me — I was in Wilmette and he lived in Skokie. It was just a happy coincidence for me."

    "The initial impetus was I can take jazz mandolin lessons from Don, and that would inform my violin playing. Instead, it opened up this entire world of extraordinary things on the mandolin, and presented it, in and of itself, as a complete and compelling jazz instrument."

    And compelling it is, particularly in Weinstein's hands.

    First Listen

    From 3x3, the world premier of the track, "Hindustan."

    "Indiana" highlights straightforward comping on his Red Diamond F, bringing Freddie Green to fifths, contrasting with a tenor banjo-like mando break. "Hindustan" flips the equation with Weinstein running clean lines, graced with Eastern flair, over a steady sock rhythm. "Broken Heart" is gin-dry with a tone straight out of 1929. And "Nola" is sweet, boasting a genteel lope that recalls the murderously undersung 6 & 7/8s String Band.

    The title of the Chesky disc — his fourth album overall — refers to the trio format of the date, which was dictated as a delicious challenge from label head David Chesky.

    "He called," Weinstein says. "It was kind of that simple."

    "What he told me was that he wanted to record with a trio. He wanted it to be me, a bass and a guitar. He was familiar with my playing and last fall he just asked, ‘You want to do a record next month?' I mean, it was very, very quick."

    On the album, which was recorded around a single microphone in a day-long session, Weinstein is accompanied by the masterful Matt Munisteri on guitar and Tom Hubbard on bass — a team of equals by any measure.

    "For about an hour," Weinstein says, "they had us placing ourselves around the microphone. You know, 'Can the guitar player take a half a step to the left? Can the violinist take two steps back?' kind of naturally mixing us. Then it was just 'Go!'

    Weinstein, who has worked extensively with legends like Les Paul and Bucky and John Pizzarelli, says he mostly looks to guitar players for mandolin inspiration.

    Yes, he is aware of Jethro Burns' legacy, but he is also quick to give props back to his own root source, Stiernberg.

    "Honestly, Don's the only mandolin influence I can list. Of course, you can't mention jazz and the mandolin without talking about Jethro, but in terms of developing my style and my conception, Don was the only mandolinist I was really focusing on."

    Aaron Weinstein Links

    Comments 20 Comments
    1. mandohat's Avatar
      mandohat -
      Sounds great! Great playing, great tones. So, my understanding is, that it was recorded live on set of mics, and that you moved around the room until they had you where they wanted you? What did the room sound like? Which is better, New York or Chicago Pizza?

      Andy Hatfield
      Peoria, IL
    1. Mark Seale's Avatar
      Mark Seale -
      My pre-order is already in place. One of the cool options for the gear geeks is this: https://aaronweinstein.bandcamp.com/...ophile-edition

      3 different mic orientations. Choose your favorite.

      Very much looking forward to hearing the full set.
    1. j. condino's Avatar
      j. condino -
    1. Drew Streip's Avatar
      Drew Streip -
      Finally -- the album we didn't know we were waiting for!
    1. Al Bergstein's Avatar
      Al Bergstein -
      Anyway to get the lead sheet for Hindustan?
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      This is a fantastic project, a real groundbreaker in my opinion. Super pleased to present this first track for everyone's listening pleasure. Aaron and company did a spectacular job here.
    1. Freddyfingers's Avatar
      Freddyfingers -
      I now need a bow tie!
    1. Freddyfingers's Avatar
      Freddyfingers -
      How do i order a cd version, or am i missing something. I found the amazon link, but a cd makes life a lot easier
    1. clem's Avatar
      clem -
      SO wonderful to hear Aaron playing with the estimable Matt Munisteri and Tom Hubbard. Fantastic ensemble playing with tones and taste for days. Can't wait for this drop.
    1. danielpatrick's Avatar
      danielpatrick -
    1. gstreicker's Avatar
      gstreicker -
      Quote Originally Posted by Al Bergstein View Post
      Anyway to get the lead sheet for Hindustan?

      And free to boot!
    1. JAK's Avatar
      JAK -
      Diamonds (Red) are a man's best friend!
    1. tkdboyd's Avatar
      tkdboyd -
      This kid is beyond brilliant. Seen him 1/2 dozen times or so, but as a violinist only. His work with Frank Vignola was fantastic.

      Here's hoping that he'll have another 45 years of performing & recording.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      This is too good!

    1. danielpatrick's Avatar
      danielpatrick -
      Interviewing him Sunday afternoon for the Podcast! Gonna get the podcast out Weds to help promote this album.....which is AMAZING!!!
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Quote Originally Posted by danielpatrick View Post
      Interviewing him Sunday afternoon for the Podcast! Gonna get the podcast out Weds to help promote this album.....which is AMAZING!!!

      I had lunch with Aaron while in NYC several years back. He is genuinely once of the nicest people your could ever hope ever meet and I'm not sure I've ever laughed so hard over a lunch. A real musical force in the music world. Can't wait to see what else he brings.
    1. sgarrity's Avatar
      sgarrity -
      Huge fan of Aaron and like the recording at first listen. But.....does anyone else feel the bass is way too prominent in the mix?
    1. sgarrity's Avatar
      sgarrity -
      Never mind, sounds good in the car. Must be something with my Bose computer speakers...
    1. Joel Glassman's Avatar
      Joel Glassman -
      How do you put the violin under your chin with a bow-tie on your neck?
      I can't even play wearing a regular tie.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Must own album! This feature put together for us by Michael Eck was published one year ago today.