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)
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.