Fresh off a summer reunion tour through Europe with Chick Corea’s Elektric Band, master drummer-percussionist Dave Weckl is not resting on his laurels. The busy Yamaha clinician kicked off an East Coast tour September 29 and 30 to plug his latest live album at Washington D.C.’s Blues Alley Supper Club.
Fronting a band of stellar soloists is a tough job because one can often lose sense of who the leader really is, but for this drummer idol, its not an issue as fans flock from near and far to see his flashy pyrotechnics and inspired grooves. As was the norm for this gig, the audience comprised rockers and fusion-heads who have dabbled here and there in jazz but really came to see a legend do his thing.
Though a bit turned off by the blatant adulation of the die-hard Weckl fans, I found an engaging blend of fusion at its best. Weckl was joined by saxophonist Gark Meek, keyboardist extraordinaire Steve Weingart, an LA-based musician like Weckl himself, and funk-jazz-everything bassist Tom Kennedy, whose contribution to the show was spectacular.
The band began the set with a pair of tunes from Weckl’s two previous albums, Transition and Perpetual Motion, followed by a couple from his forthcoming two-CD on the Stretch label entitled Dave Weckl Band Live: And Very Plugged In. Weckl’s originals were followed by a New Orleans groove by Kennedy (who took an killer extended boppish opening solo). Saxophonist and longtime Flora Purim and Airto Moreira collaborator Gary Meek exercised Brecker-like chops and remarkable altissimo range and fluidity. The saxophonist, also a woodwind doubler, keyboardist, and percussionist, contributed a free inspired tune that sounded like the opening riff of “Freedom Jazz Dance” and had a bridge reminiscent of Monk’s “Well You Needn’t.” Weingart contributed an original from his recent solo debut album entitled Life Times (which can be found on his website, www.steveweingart.com ).
Weingart’s chops were all but hackneyed. His stylings subtly hinted at influences running the gamut from Bill Evans and Ahmad Jamal to the funkiness of Jimmy Smith and Joey Defrancesco. When asked who he really digs on organ and electric keys, he said “definitely Joe Zawinul was a big influence.” Weingart has long been a behind the scenes man, but hopefully that will change on this tour as Weckl presents his virtuoso pianist to audiences across the East Coast. Talking with Weingart after the show he revealed that he is a teaching participant at the free-formed “rhythm section school,” the Musicians’ Institute in LA, and once while playing in a club in Los Angeles. Superstar Clint Eastwood approached the bandstand after the show and in a Dirty Harry grunt said “you guys have got chops.”
However, the highlight was Weckl’s ridiculously good control and beat subdivision with stellar rudimentary undercurrents and tasty splash and crash cymbal work. The new album is sure to please fusion listeners and anyone who enjoyed Steps Ahead over the years. The groups are scarily similar in many respects but they each share a dedication to always advancing the music in new directions.
Check out Dave Weckl's latest developments online at www.daveweckl.com .