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Explosive drummer Dave Weckl leads a talented ensemble that sounds a bit like his old group, the Chick Corea Elektric Band, minus the venerable Mr. Corea. This second release from the Weckl Band is an energetic mix of improvised fusion and pop-jazz.
Spunkier than Spyro Gyra and more rock-oriented than the Yellowjackets, the Weckl Band is best when it gives in to its jazzier tendencies as on the cuts "Swunk," a fiery track that combines funk and bebop, and "Cape Fear," a sinister groover with a Turkish-like melody.
Weckl and company move dexterously through a variety of styles here, including smooth jazz, jazz-rock, funk, and even African grooves. Most of these 12 tracks are rooted in the diverse rhythms laid down by the drummer, but guitarist Buzz Feiten contributes a couple of melodic acoustic ballads ("A Simple Prayer" and "Where's My Paradise?"). Feiten also rocks out impressively on some of the faster tracks.
Saxophonist Brandon Fields is a nice addition to the Weckl band, and he particularly shines on the funkier tunes: "Wet Skin," which was inspired by James Brown, and Fields' own "Lucky Seven," a piece reminiscent of Tower of Power. Bassist Tommy Kennedy keeps pace with Weckl no easy task there. Keyboardist Jay Oliver relies a bit too heavily on electronics for my tastes, but this is a small gripe.
All things considered, Synergy delivers smart pop-jazz, some impressive fusion, and terrific drumming by the leader. The Dave Weckl Band has quickly become one of the more interesting outfits in contemporary jazz.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.