Sometimes it's best to take things on face value. A solid collection of engaging compositions, plenty of infectious grooves, and strong soloing/interplay can go a long way to making an album worthwhile, even if it doesn't demonstrate any kind of specific characteristics that give it a distinctive personality. Sometimes an album is just plain fun, nothing more, nothing less.
Over the course of his 25-year career, drummer Dave Weckl has created an almost unparalleled reputation in fusion circles as a player with staggering chops and the ability to navigate the most complex of chartsthe latter arguably most visible during his tenure with keyboardist Chick Corea's Elektric Band, which reconvened last year for a new record and tour, after a fourteen-year hiatus. But along with his reputation as a virtuosic player was often an undercurrent that his playing always felt somehow cold and sterile.
While Weckl has been releasing solo albums since '90's Master Plan, it's really been over the past five years that his Dave Weckl Band has emerged with a combination of deep funk grooves and hints of rhythmic influences from farther afield that lay waste to the claim that Weckl is a skilled but clinical player. Multiplicity is a high-energy but never bombastic session that gives everyone plenty of chance to stretch out, all within the context of some attractive and upbeat compositions, most being collaborations between Weckl, reedman Gary Meek, and keyboardist Steve Weingart, with three tracks by Weingart alone. But, most important, the album feels good.
The precedents are all there. Weckl's time with Corea can be heard in some of the charts' complicated and unexpected rhythmic twists and turns, but Yellowjackets and Jaco-era Weather Report are the clearest foundations. Weckl and his long-time rhythm section partner, bassist Tom Kennedy, seem joined at the hip on tunes ranging from the bright opener "Watch Your Step, the Latin-informed "Vuelo, and the 7/4 mover, "Mixed Bag. But Weckl is equally connected to bassist Ric Fierabracci, who plays on four of the nine tracks, most notably on the Weather Report-inflected shuffle of "Elements of Surprise and the visceral, behind-the-beat funk of "What It Is.
Weingart and Meek are capable soloists, but if there's any criticism, it's that, while everything is delivered with complete commitment, no originality distinguishes the players. The generic nature of the playing, despite its high level, is what stops the record, clearly an enjoyable one, from being great.
There's no doubt that, in the area of funkified fusion, Weckl and his band represent some of the better players around. And in that regard, for fans of the genre who want to hear vivid playing that avoids its almost inherent excesses, one could do far worse than check out Multiplicity. Still, if Weckl wants his band to get to the next level, he needs to find a way of giving it a clear identity.
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Watch Your Step; Elements of Surprise; Vuelo; Inner Vision; What It Is; Chain Reaction; Cascade; Mixed Bag; Down on the Corner
Dave Weckl (drums, percussion); Steve Weingart (keyboards); Gary Meek (tenor and soprano saxophones, alto flute, bass clarinet); Tom Kennedy (bass on