Danny Weis

Sweet Spot

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The smooth jazz/contemporary instrumental genre proved kind to former rock guitar gods like Craig Chaquico and Neal Schon, and a decade after they first made their mark with solo discs, Iron Butterfly founding member Danny Weis tried his hand at it -- spectacularly as it turned out. Simple research shows that Weis left the Iron Butterfly fold just before they released their classic In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida album, so Toronto's Marshmellow Records wasn't able to bill their new artist as the guy who played one of the biggest solos in rock history. Hopefully, the classic rock connections will still draw people into this very solid and enjoyable 16-track set, which opens with the airplay friendly, midtempo title track featuring the spirited duality of Weis and alto saxman Vern Dorge. There's great stylistic variety the rest of the way, from the crisp, blistering, bluesy funk (think a very hip, 2000s Average White Band) of "Turn It Up" to the Larry Carlton-flavored crying electric ballad "Cat's Meow," the blues-rock, distorted guitar-spiced bar band jams "Graham Street Shuffle" and "Inglewood," and even a tender solo reading of "Over the Rainbow." No doubt the opening track and sweet ballads like "Angel's Flight" put Weis in the smooth jazz world, but the real heart of the disc comes from tracks like "Gunslinger," a simmering, percussive, horn-drenched rocker that transcends the usual light funk of the genre. Two 43-second interludes are probably unnecessary, but the fanciful and organic "Country Licks" and "Apricot Brandy" show yet another side of Weis' deep artistry. Sweet indeed.

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