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Dave Weckl: On Time

Scott Mitchell By

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Dave Weckl hit the New York fusion scene in the early 1980s. It didn't take long for this talented drummer from Saint Charles, Missouri to get recognized and hired by artists like singers Madonna, Robert Plant, Diana Ross, and Paul Simon, as well as guitarist/vocalist {George Benson}}. Weckl toured with the keyboardist Chick Corea's Elektric Band from 1985 to 1991. He then recorded and toured with guitarist Mike Stern. He currently tours regularly with guitarists Oz Noy and Chuck Loeb, and bassist Chris Minh Doky. Recognized by Modern Drummer magazine as one of the top 25 drummers of all time, this master musician shows no signs of slowing down.

All About Jazz: What kind of a year has 2012 been for you?

Dave Weckl: Honestly, the years have all melded together for quite some time now. My road travel has been over the top the last few years with no sign of letting up anytime soon, this year being no exception. I'm thankful for the work, but a bit tired. As my recently deceased, wonderful friend/teacher Freddie Gruber once said, "Get it while you can!" So, I've had three EU tours with different groups, USA gigs, lots of work in my studio, and we're only in July.

I've been on tour with Mike Stern and Oz Noy so far this year, so that has and is taking up most of my time. At home I continue to work on various things in the studio, both my own projects and remote recordings for other clients. I guess you could say I'm working on staying healthy so I can keep up this ridiculous schedule.

I have a drum camp (Drum Fantasy Camp), with some other great players/teachers, and a major drum event in Australia. In the fall I've had some down time with family as I continued to work on projects in my studio, , including a "Single Series" that I have for download on my website. . I currently have three songs there that can be downloaded, with choices of packages containing play-alongs for each instrument on the song. The plan is to do more of these projects, time permitting. I am also working on a possible new project with Jay Oliver, my longtime friend and the first keyboard player in my band. More to come on that. I also go racing a bit. I've been on tour most of the fall and a lot of December in the States and EU with the Nomads, a nice group with Chris Minh Doky on bass, George Whitty on keys, and Dean Brown on guitar. My web site tour page is a great source of info about me and what I'm doing, where I'm touring.

AAJ : What goes through your mind when you look back at where you started and where you are now?

DW : I take a deep breath, it's been a long, great journey that thankfully continues. I started playing drums when I was seven. I'm 52 and still at it, full on. I feel fortunate and thankful to have had and continue to have the career I have enjoyed, and still healthy and "young" enough to play the way I like to play.

AAJ : Who were your earliest musical influences?

DW : Besides my father (played piano as a hobby) and rock bands like The Monkees and some others, I was turned on to jazz at an early age from my dad. [Drummer] Jack Sperling (with [clarinetist] Pete Fountain) was my introduction to swing, then my dad brought home a Buddy Rich record and he became an obsession, followed by Steve Gadd and other great drummers. I was turned on to the music of a lot of great artists because of the drummers playing with them, such as Chick Corea, Brecker Brothers, Herbie Hancock, and all the big bands of the time; Maynard [Ferguson], [Stan] Kenton, Clark Terry, Thad Jones Mel Lewis Remembered—and, of course, my favorite, Buddy [Rich]'s big band. During this time I was meeting kids my age with the same passion, like Tom and Ray Kennedy, Jay Oliver and others. Together we sort of influenced each other to learn, play and progress.

AAJ : How did your musical influences grow and or change over time?

DW : As I was exposed to more things in life, and different musicians, I was exposed to different music. I met musicians from different parts of the world as I moved around, both in a living and touring sense, which enlightened me to all the music the world had to offer. That still happens, by the way.

AAJ : What artists and bands do you enjoy listening to today?

DW : Well, I listen to a wide variety of music. I love Latin music, and I'm still a fan of older R&B, and the music I listened to as a kid. My 15 year-old daughter exposes me (not willingly sometimes) to all things current, from pop, rock, etc... but she has also been exposed from a very early age to a wide variety, so she also likes a lot of different things. I really don't specify too much what I listen to, and sometimes, because my ears are pretty much always on music for the job; "silence is golden."

AAJ : How old were you when you played your first musical instrument? What instrument was that?

DW : I was six or seven. Guitar, it didn't last long.

AAJ : When did you start on drums?

DW : Right after that at seven or eight years of age I started with box lids and pan lids from my mother's cookware, which you can imagine didn't go over to well. So my parents got me a cheap drum set to beat on, which got set up in my dad's TV work room, and eventually moved to the living room. Yes, the living room, which is where they stayed set up for years. I played with my dad on occasion, and had behind me the huge turn table/stereo system that I could crank loud enough to play to records.

AAJ : Can you outline the progression of your skills on the drums?

DW : Not completely, that would take me quite a while because it's been so much study and practice over the years, that to retrace it all would be monumental. Let's just say that I had a burning desire to learn, and I constantly listened and copied who and what I liked. And I spent a hell of a lot of time practicing, and playing with other musicians from a very early age. I always strived to be very versatile, to try and have a grasp on different styles, sounds and textures, and be able to fit in to different musical situations appropriately.

I also went through a few great teachers when I was young (Bob Matheny and Joe Buerger) in St Louis MO that helped to mold me into the player I am today. During high school I practiced a lot, listened a lot, and the same in my early college years. On the east coast in College (Univ. of Bridgeport CT), with drum teachers Ed Soph and Randy Jones, and then privately with the late Gary Chester, which was some of the most profound study of my life. I was then on the road with no private study for probably 10-12 years until I started to see Freddie Gruber, which was life-changing for me, as far as how I approached playing the drums, and still, for the most part, the approach I use today.

AAJ : What was your first big break as an professional musician?
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