It’s very fitting that in the liner notes to saxophonist and composer Walt Weiskopf’s sixth set as a leader for Criss Cross, writer Bill Milkowski comments on the lack of information or publicity available to the general jazz public on the intrinsic worth of Weiskopf. Whole heartedly concurring, this reviewer has felt that the world has been too long asleep on Weiskopf’s efforts to expand the jazz tradition in a way that maintains conventions but also allows for individual expression to reign supreme. And maybe it’s because Weiskopf’s art is not flashy in the radical sense (you won’t find electronics, hip hop scratchers, or rappers here) that he continues to remain just a bit out of the range of everyday radar.
As a significant follow-up to his previous nonet recording, the sublime and wonderful Song For My Mother, the recently issued Siren is every bit as powerful. In fact, aside from the substitution of bassist Doug Weiss for Peter Washington, the same cast of characters is again assembled, with Conrad Herwig, Jim Snidero, and brother Joel Weiskopf proving to be dependable soloists throughout. It should also be said that one couldn’t envision such a record without the talents of drummer Billy Drummond. His capacity to spur on each soloist and to add color to the ensemble is without equal.
Weiskopf’s writing remains one of his biggest assets, although this time around we also get two standards thrown into the mix, along with an original apiece from Snidero and brother Joel. The opening and brief “Glass Eye” makes the most of some angular counterpoint before the loping title track sets the stage. The sunny ensemble sports a muted Joe Magnarelli on trumpet and Anders Bostrom on flute, the latter contributing a breathy solo of his own later on in the track. “In a Daze” is a Snidero line in waltz tempo and Weiskopf’s Coltrane-inspired bursts of energy are purely delightful. Then the tenor man gets romantic with “Close Your Eyes,” a lush arrangement including Bostrom’s lovely flute once again. Further highlights include another ¾ line, “Waltz in Ferrara” and “Zone,” a brisk track that finds the horns shouting from the git-go and Scott Robinson’s gutsy baritone sax taking a bow (long live the Pepper Adams legacy!).
Whether or not this record will bring Weiskopf some additional fans is hard to say. Certainly the sense of artistic veracity and sheer joie de vivre presented here is beyond reproach and only the most foolish would selectively choose to ignore its implications.
Track Listing: Glass Eye, Siren, In a Daze, Close Your Eyes, Victory March, Night in Ferrara, Zone, Baby Won't You Please Come Home, Separation
Personnel: Walt Weiskopf (tenor sax), Anders Bostrom (flute & alto flute), Jim Snidero (alto sax & flute), Scott Robinson (baritone sax & bass clarinet), Joe Magnarelli (trumpet), Conrad Herwig (trombone), Joel Weiskopf (piano), Doug Weiss (bass), Billy Drummond (drums)