At a time where millions around the world are thankfully being vaccinated, the cure for live music blues has yet to be addressed. While nothing can replace the sound, the energy, and feel of live music, a medicinal record will be on the market in April 2021. While this reunion concert recorded in 2019 would no doubt be impactful sans the pandemic, the timing and dosage is fortuitous. Getting the gang back together, a la the Blues Brothers, Dave Weckl
reunited band members Tom Kennedy
, Jay Oliver
, Buzz Feiten
, and Gary Meek
for a hometown performance at the Chesterfield Jazz Festival in St. Louis. Weckl, Kennedy, and Oliver are all from the St. Louis area and have played together since their early teens.
Formed in 1998, the Dave Weckl Band disbanded in 2006. The reunion is a reminder of their special connection and chemistry. Spirits were high as they took the stage and opened with "The Zone," one of several selections from their landmark debut album Rhythm of the Soul
(Stretch Records, 1998). Weckl's thick pocket grooves set the tone early. The energy and enthusiasm of playing together again is apparent throughout this consistently explosive show. They jump right into boogie mode with Meek's sax licks highlighting "Big B, Little B." Feiten shines next with a slow building funky guitar growl in the "Mud Sauce." Good things come to those who wait, as Kennedy then delivers the anticipated fine-edged bass solo. "101 Shuffle" has a Brecker Brothers
kick to it that features everyone, with a nod to Feiten and Meek's tenor.
From the album Hard Wired
(GRP, 1994), Jay Oliver's highly melodic "Tribute" is delivered with warmth and character. He leads the band and the audience on a moving journey to the heart. Lightening the mood and having some fun with "What Happened To My Good Shoes," the Weckl-Kennedy rhythm section is in full stride with Weckl's thunderous drumming and Kennedy's fat bottom end leading to imaginative, tightly-punched interplay with Oliver, Meek, and Feiten. Again deftly changing courses, "Song for Claire" brings on the feel of a new dawn. Written in honor of the birth of Weckl's daughter, the tune is awash in melodic sensibility before taking a clever upturn highlighted by Feiten's fusion chops that are reminiscent of Michael Landau
in texture, and in making every note count.
No Weckl and Kennedy performance is replete without a duet. The two have again played together since childhood. It would be hard to imagine a tighter rhythm section. It should be noted that despite the band breaking up in 2006, Weckl and Kennedy have continued to perform together in many forms over the years. What they do with the Thelonious Monk
classic "Rhythm-A-Ning" is nothing short of remarkable. Their innate responses to each other in such intelligent form is one of the jazz world's most precious gifts. It also allows the next tune, "Synergy" to really pop. With the entire quintet back on stage, the title track from Synergy
(Stretch Records, 1999) sounds as if it was shot out of a cannon. Weckl and Kennedy find a tempo that glides at a strong pace without going pedal to the metal. The brilliant craftsmen they are, they make it seem easy. It creates beautiful space for their bandmates to maneuver within. They were up to the task and collectively knocked "Synergy" out of the park.
The high energy show ends with a funked up take on "Tower '99." Or at least it could have. It had a "leaving it all on the table" vibe to it. However, the band was having too much fun, and an appreciative crowd receives a rollicking encore of "Access Denied." This potent fusion song has a rock power edge to it, while maintaining jazz grooves and sharp play on the chord progressions. To put it another way, it is a home run that sends the crowd home victorious.
This record won't cure all your ills, but it reminds us of what we have been missing this past year, and of what is still to come.
The Zone; Big B, Little B; Mud Sauce; 101 Shuffle; Tribute; What Happened to My Good Shoes; Song for Claire; Rhythm-A-Ning; Synergy;
Tower '99; Access Denied.
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