“Guitarist Weis a musician of great virtuosity, displaying deft technique, a deep understanding of music and his instrument, a gift for songwriting, and a respectful, graceful approach. His new release Sweet Spot delivers a solid jazz punch with sixteen tasteful tracks and over fifty minutes of superb music in a modern take on classic styles.”
– Cindy McLeod, Jazzelements.com
“No vocals, just solid grooves and Danny’s mesmerizing skills on the fret board. Just the ticket for a cool Saturday night. Weis finds the Sweet Spot all right, and hits it over and over! “
– David Kidney, Greenman Review
“A beautiful and brilliant album. Danny Weis was born to make music. 6 Bottles (of rare vintage wine), for a Guitarist that the Whole World should know about. If Danny Weis hasn’t yet graced the cover of Guitar Player Magazine, this disc should be his ticket…”
– Andy Grigg, Real Blues Magazine
“Weis strides outside the case and beholds melodies as an accurate conflux of content. Sweet Spot adjusts a unique view that gathers from genius technique to moving compositions.”
– Smooth Jazz
“It’s got far more bite to it than anything George Benson or Earl Klugh ever recorded!”
– Jim Trageser, North County Times, San Diego
Admittedly this album had my attention when I read the words Danny Weis, co-founder of classic rock group Iron Butterfly. Any fan of great rock and roll would pay attention to that line! What I learned was, this has absolutely nothing in common with Iron Butterfly. While that reads a lot like disappointment let me tell you that it is far from it. Sure this isnt In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (I dont know if Weis was even in the band during that time, honestly) but few things are and this is a well crafted album regardless.
Sweet Spot is Weis first solo record ever and it features 16 tracks of instrumental music that, for the most part, is probably best deemed Lite Jazz. Most people will spend the albums first two tracks trying to figure out why this isnt classic rock and where the lyrics are, therefore the first song to really catch your attention is Cats Meow. Weis downright amazing guitar work really stands out on this song. Its kind of funky and the guitars are really expressive in a B.B. King kind of way. Dinner at Nine is another highlight, offering up feelings of a great evening on the beach. Its got a very California feel to it. Funk Tracks is a nice offering as well that serves to break up any possible monotony the album may be creating. Sure its only forty seconds but when you combine it with the big funk rock sound of Inglewood you have a more than pleasing three and a half minutes.
Sweet Spot is a great listen. Im not generally the biggest fan of instrumental music but Weis has enough talent and creative prowess to hold your attention pretty well for nearly an hour. If they ever do the G3 tour again, Weis has my vote for the ticket. This is an unexpectedly wonderful album.
Reviewed by: Mark Fisher, May 2006
San Diego Reader-Music-Blurt, The inside track:
Heavy, Beautiful “I can still rock, ” says Danny Weis, cofounder of Iron Butterfly. The guitarist, who lives in Canada, spent the majority of his youth in El Cajon.
“I fondly remember the years I would go see my dad, Johnny Weis, play guitar, backing people from the Grand Ole Opry at Bostonia Ballroom in El Cajon,” says Weis. “I was age 9 to 12, and I used to stand right in front of the stage and lean on it with my elbows. I wasn’t too tall then, I guess. I remember Johnny Cash playing right in front of me with my dad backing him on guitar with the band. [Cash] always remembered me and would stoop right in front of me, saying, ‘Folsom Prison?’ I said yes with joy.”
Weis picked up a guitar at around age 12 and by 13 was playing with local bands.
“I was always the youngest musician, as the others were all 18 to 21. I had trouble with club managers, as I looked so very young. They wanted me to dye my hair black and put on a fake mustache to look older. I didn’t.”
With Doug Ingle, Weis formed Iron Butterfly in 1966.
“We sought a band name that was heavy, so to speak, and also beautiful. Not long after, we all got into Darryl DeLoach’s — God rest his soul — black hearse and moved to Hollywood, California.”
Weis quit Iron Butterfly soon after recording Heavy in Hollywood. He went on to play with the Rascals, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, and the Everly Brothers.
“My early musical experiences in San Diego County would shape my entire career…. There was a lot of jazz, country, and R&B.”
Weis’s new solo album, Sweet Spot, will be available at http://www.marshmellowrecords.com.
— -Jeremiah Griffey
May 4 2006
CD Review / Jazz Instrumental
Danny Weis / Sweet Spot
Marshmellow Records / 2006
Danny Weis may be best known for his days with the rock supergroups Iron Butterfly and Rhinoceros, but the man is as well rounded a musician as any that ever walked the earth. His new release Sweet Spot delivers a solid jazz punch with sixteen tasteful tracks and over fifty minutes of superb music in a modern take on classic styles.
Guitarist Weis a musician of great virtuosity, displaying deft technique, a deep understanding of music and his instrument, a gift for songwriting, and a respectful, graceful approach. Theres evidence of a number of influences in the sound, George Benson, Earl Klug, Kenny Burrell and many others pop into mind as you listen to these tracks, but the sound is all his own. In a brave move, Weis has offered up snippets of musical ideas rather than complete songs, mingled with short musical interludes. The result is a highly listenable, relaxing sound that is the perfect accompaniment for nearly any activity. Joining Weis for the Toronto recording date are fellow Canadians (Weis has relocated from the U.S.), Rich Brown (bass), Jorn Andersen (drums), Richard Bell, Lou Pomanti, and Michael Fonfara (keyboards), Vern Dorge and Pol Coussee (saxophones), Jason Logue (trumpet), Armondo Borg (percussion), and for the one vocal track, singers Byram Joseph, Latoya, and Miranda. The bulk of the tracks are Weis compositions, with two standards and two co-writes. All bring Weis vision to full fruition in sympathetic and supportive performances.
The CD showcases Weis in a wide variety of styles, and although this is entirely his recording, it is without a doubt an ensemble sound. From the first and title track Sweet Spot Weis establishes a sound that is slightly retro, yet firmly plants his feet in a contemporary genre. The operative word here is groove, with a jazz take on funk, R&B, fusion, blues and even country feels. His work flows effortlessly over a meaty bottom end, with keyboards, horns and percussion filling out the sound. Country Licks, one of the delightful interludes, is jaw-dropping in its technical wizardry, with Weis evoking the influences of the great masters of Atkins, Lenny Breau, and the man who spent a lot of time in the family home when he was a child, Barney Kessel, a friend of Weis musician father. For Apricot Brandy, Weis enlists fellow Rhinoceros bandmember Michael Fonfara to co-write and perform on this lively blues shuffle. Turn it Up is a funkified smooth jazz offering, a quiet, reflective track that showcases the artist in both on both electric and acoustic guitars. East of the Sun and Somewhere Over the Rainbow feature Weis in a solo acoustic setting, and upon hearing these tracks one would assume the man had played jazz guitar for many lifetimes with the rich harmonic approach taken. The single vocal cut Keep the Faith takes the sound in a Gospel direction, complete with B3 and the lush choral group lifting it to glorious heights. There are many standout tracks among the many offered, adding a serious jazz music credit to the mans formidable talents.
Weis may have already carved an impressive career over the decades, but we can only hope that hell produce more of this fine music for many more. Sweet Spot is a much- welcomed addition to the great jazz talent to be found in Canada. Highly recommended.
Cindy McLeod, http://www.jazzelements.com
The remainder of my listening this month was captured by something I would call a ‘guilty pleasure’. As I told the publicist who sent me the disc, I was quite prepared to dismiss it as something that WholeNote does not cover, given our primary focus on Classical and Jazz releases. However, I made the ‘mistake’ of putting guitarist Danny Weis’ “Sweet Spot” (Marshmellow Records MMr030) on the CD player and found myself enthralled. Toronto has a long history of Rhythm and Blues bands and I grew up wishing I were old enough to go to the clubs that were featuring such seemingly legendary artists as Little Ceasar and the Consuls, Luke and the Apostles and David Clayton Thomas with his early bands the Fabulous Shays and the Bossmen. A decade or two later I was donning my dancing shoes and heading off to the El Mocambo to catch Mary Margaret O’Hara’s band Dollars or over to Jarvis St. for Billy Reed and the Street People featuring Molly Johnson. Weis, originally from California, was a founding member of Iron Butterfly (although he left the band before their break-through hit In-a-Gadda-da-vida) and Rhinoceros. He ended up marrying a Toronto girl and now makes his home in the country east of our fair city. It’s nice to hear of great musicians moving here instead of away! “Sweet Spot” is a predominantly instrumental album that took me back to the heady days of the 1980s with reminders of such Jazz/R&B crossover greats as George Benson and Lee Ritenour, and occasional forays into the realm of Wes Montgomery. Weis comes by his chops honestly his father was an accomplished jazz guitarist who set a good example but left him free to discover his own funky and soulful voice. With able assistance from sideman Rich Brown on bass, drummer Jorn Andersen, saxophonist and horn arranger Vern Dorge and keyboardist Lou Pomani, who fills out the mix with ‘strings’ that are not annoyingly synthetic-sounding, Danny Weis has produced some fine R&B. “Sweet Spot” indeed!
Fresh Trax: Part Two
Dinner At Nine – Danny Weis: Say Iron Butterfly and the first thing that pops into most people’s mind is In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. In actuality, there’s much more to the band’s story as it went thru several incarnations. Zip back a year or two, to the time before the recording of that ode to the 60s and you’ve hit the period when Danny Weis was a member. It was 1963, when Weis, a San Diego based guitarist took a hand in founding what became one the mega band in heavy metal. He made one record with Iron Butterfly but left prior to their issue of the nefarious anthem, so at least we can’t pin that on him.
After Iron Butterfly, Weis played with the group Rhinoceros and then followed that by playing and recording with The Everly Brothers, Burton Cummings, The Rascals, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Melissa Manchester and others. In 1979, he appeared as Bette Midler’s guitarist in the film “The Rose”, based on the life of Janis Joplin. As bandleader and guitarist for the movie’s soundtrack, he received a platinum album award.
Weis now makes his Canada his home. The 40 year plus veteran, has only recently issued his solo debut called Sweet Spot. In this regard, Danny brings all his experiences in rock and more, to the making of the record. Taught guitar by his dad, a well-known country jazz guitarist, Danny would often witness his father jamming with the renowned Barney Kessel who was a frequent visitor to their home. These early influences helped mould Danny’s unique style. So that now, in spite of a very able cast of supporting players, it’s Danny’s show from beginning to end. From that effort we have the excellent blues tinged Dinner at Nine!!
CD: Sweet Spot
Label: Marshmellow Records
Site: Weis at Marshmellow,
NCTIMES, NORTH COUNTY TIMES,SAN DIEGO,CA
JIM TRAGESER – Staff Writer
From “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida” to smooth jazz may seem a long journey. Although to be honest, founding Iron Butterfly guitarist Danny Weis had left the band before their opus hit was laid down by the most successful band to ever come out of San Diego County.
Anyway, if former San Diegan Weis’ first solo album, “Sweet Spot,” is being marketed as a smooth jazz bit of easy listening, it’s got far more bite to it than anything George Benson or Earl Klugh ever recorded: He’s got far more in common with the adult contemporary sounds of fellow guitarist Johnny A than he does Spyro Gyra.
Now, if you listen to the first track, you might disagree —- it is your typical uber mellow background music.
Stick with it, though, and by the third track, “Cat’s Meow,” he’s into some very tasty Wes Montgomery territory with a heavy blues interlude (the Montgomery influence resurfaces later on the disc on a classic reading of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”). Further on, “Gunslinger” is a cross between jazz and acid rock that is as intriguing as it is fun. And on “Graham Street Shuffle,” he’s letting loose with a straight-ahead electric blues with accompanying horns and a Hammond B-3 to play off his guitar.
“Dinner at Nine” and “Inglewood” are in a bit of a Benson/Klugh groove, as is “Keep the Faith.”
But even when playing less-challenging material, Weis shows impeccable taste and impressive chops.
Sweet Spot, the debut solo project from Danny Weis, is a serious collection of grown up contemporary music for listeners of many persuasions. This San Diego raised guitarist who started out his musical life as a founder member of the 60s rock band Iron Butterfly and played with super group Rhinoceros now makes his home in Ontario Canada but his strong sense of melody, bluesy lines and his distinctive funky rhythmic style were formed when he was taught guitar by his father, country jazz guitarist Johnny Weis. He was also influenced by the regular visits that legendary jazz guitarist Barney Kessel made to the family home and he brings all this and more to Sweet Spot. Certainly Dannys rock heritage surfaces from time to time as does his flair for blues but surprisingly he also demonstrates a light melodic touch and an ear for a quality smooth jazz vibe.
The entire album has a deliciously retro feel that is assisted in no small measure by Michael Fonfaras expansive use of Hammond B3. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Turn It Up where Weis capitalizes on the big (sounding) horn section of Vern Dorge, Pol Coussee and Jason Logue to get a real Tower Of Power thing going. This same full sound is also to the fore with Gunslinger. Here the horns frame Dannys own brand of blues tinged rock to make this a genuine night crawler while biggest of all is the bluesy swinger Graham Street Shuffle that, despite awesome backing, Weis makes all his own. The smoky club style number Angels Flight features sweet alto sax from Dorge and a handsome blues infused guitar solo from Weis but he shows his rock roots with the mid tempo back in the day Inglewood on which Fonfara is off the chain and then some.
Talking of back in the day there was a time that every album and every live gig included a big memorable play out number. On Sweet Spot Danny Weis resurrects this phenomenon and transitions from groovy guitar and Hammond B3 interplay to a surprise injection of vocals from Byram Joseph, Latoya and Miranda who sing out the collection, with the simple message of Keep The Faith, in fervent and soulful style.
Although listed as having sixteen tracks, Sweet Spot actually only has twelve plus four short interludes. Each of these fillers show off a different side of Dannys musical influences and with the Brooks Bowman composition East Of The Sun he is at his melodic and beautiful best. This gentle side of Danny Weis also emerges with the simple and timeless rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow and he keeps it mellow but adds funk for Dinner At Nine on which Lou Pomanti plays excellent electric piano. Pomanti also gets the chance to contribute on Its About Time. It is of the albums better tracks with Weis playing feel good smooth jazz guitar from the outset.
In fact Danny Weis proves he has the knack of producing smooth jazz with an edge. The laid back and bluesy intro to Cats Meow merges into melodic smooth jazz but is prevented from becoming bland by periodic bursts of blues guitar while on the title cut the solid combination of Hammond B3 and alto sax compliment the smooth jazz guitar of Weis. It has a nice rhythm and catchy hook but perhaps the albums stand out track is What Would It Take. Arguably this should already have been lifted for radio play but the fact its 6 minutes long means that is unlikely to happen. Nevertheless its a real winner with Weis starting out in acoustic mode before gradually folding in the elements of electric guitar, Hammond B3 and finally alto sax to produce the perfect smooth jazz mix.
Sweet Spot offers a range and versatility for which an audience is certainly waiting. More information on Danny Weis can be found at http://www.marshmellowrecords.com
Danny Weis Sweet Spot (Marshmellow Records MMR030)
How Sweet it is!
A founding member of the well known 1960s rock group Iron Butterfly, and a member of the super group Rhinoceros, Danny Weis brings his extraordinary guitar talent to his first solo project Sweet Spot.
Released in October 2005, on Torontos Marshmellow Records, Sweet Spot features an eclectic mix of original R & B, Funk and Jazz guitar instrumentals.
The addictive Turn It Up is a wonderfully funky track, featuring heavy bass lines, superb horn arrangements, and the guitar talents of Mr. Weis; it is an exceptional track that brings to mind the best of 70s Jazz and fusion. The gorgeous What Would It Take is romantic, sensual, and smooth. And for those so inclined, it is defiantly a slow dance number! Inglewood is another stellar offering, with a great marriage of Funk, Rock n Roll and Jazz. A great Bluesy number is also included here. Gunslinger proves to be raw and dirty, and is a standout track.
All of the songs on Sweet Spot feature outstanding accompaniment from musicians including Rhinoceros alumnus and current Downchild Blues Band keyboard master, Michael Fonfara.
With over 50 minutes of music and 16 tracks, this recording has something for all tastes. It is exciting, modern and I am certainly looking forward to future projects from the formidable and extremely talented Danny Weis.
Pay a visit to Marshmellow Records for more information on Danny Weis and this CD on the web at http://www.marshmellowrecords.com.
Danny Weis, Sweet Spot (Marshmellow, 2005)
Danny Weis! Wow! From founder of Iron Butterfly (but don’t blame him for “Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida”) to the first super-group Rhinoceros; from backing Janis Joplin, the Everly Bros., Lou Reed and many more, Danny Weis has been an intrinsic part of the music scene for decades. Sweet Spot is his first solo album, and what a welcome thing it is!
I last saw Danny Weis about a year ago. Scottish mystery writer Ian Rankin was reading from his new novel, and a group called the Pork Belly Futures was starting the night off with their literary blues! My wife and I rode the elevator up to the second floor, and as the door was closing, a fellow carrying a guitar called, “Hold it!” We held it, and he rode up with us. It was Danny Weis, filling in for the Futures’ regular guitarist. They rocked that night! Weis is a master of his instrument. Blues, some rock, a touch of jazz, R&B, he can play it all.
Sweet Spot showcases all of the above. It even features a brief quote from Rhinoceros’s first single “Apricot Brandy.” Weis moves from the smooth George Bensonish sounds of the title song to the blues of “Graham Street Shuffle” without blinking an eye. He throws down some “Country Licks” (reminding the listener of Albert Lee) and adds a bit of Funk in “Funk Tracks.” Like I said, he can play it all.
Sure, his playing reminds you of this guy or that, but it’s his own mastery of his instrument that allows him to wander throughout the musical map. Wherever he goes, you’ll want to follow. The musicians backing him provide able support. Rich Brown on bass, Jorn Andersen on drums, form the ever-so-solid rhythm section. Richard Bell and Lou Pomanti join on keyboards, and on three tracks his old partner from Rhinoceros Michael Fonfara adds Hammond B-3. There are a few horn players too, sweetening the mix, but essentially it’s Danny’s show.
No vocals, just solid grooves and Danny’s mesmerizing skills on the fretboard. Just the ticket for a cool Saturday night. Weis finds the Sweet Spot all right, and hits it over and over!