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Although drummer Dave Weckl and his sidemen (I assume that this is his working quintet) know exactly where they want to go and how to get there, the kind of Jazz they play simply doesn’t interest me in the least. I’m sure they must think it swings; with some exceptions (“Swunk,” parts of “Synergy,” for example) I couldn’t agree with any such assertion. It sounds to these admittedly unschooled ears like a hybrid that embodies rock, smooth Jazz, New Age and other ingredients. While the music is almost surely far more difficult to compose and perform than it sounds, what comes through the speakers is a rather uncomplicated rock–centered groove on which is layered a number of Jazz–like melodies and improvisations that land far short of memorable. To give Weckl his due, he is superb on the drum–solo piece, “Cultural Concurrence,” which was inspired by percussion instruments acquired during his travels in 1998. A shame there isn’t more of that and less monotonous rock–derived cadences, as on the following number, “Tower ’99” (a new arrangement of “Tower of Inspiration” from Weckl’s first CD, Master Plan ) and most of the others. Weckl earned his reputation with Chick Corea’s Elektric and Akoustic Bands, and, in a sense, is still with Corea, recording for Chick’s Stretch label. About Synergy, he says: “What I enjoy is that the music . . . is really a mix of everything from blues, Latin, African to soul, rock and Jazz [no argument here]. What makes the synergy happen with this band is the combination of those sensibilities. . . .I think the CD has a lot to offer, containing moments of hard, adventurous playing counterbalanced with songs possessing a lighter touch, finesse and subtlety. While synergy is what the album is all about, balance is also quite important [in] making it work as well as it does.” Whether it does, of course, is in the ear of the beholder. I’ll pass, but many others won’t, and they may find in Synergy exactly the sort of pleasurable listening experience for which they’ve been searching.
Track listing: High Life; Panda’s Dream; Swunk; A Simple Prayer; Cape Fear; Wet Skin; Synergy; Where’s My Paradise?; Lucky Seven; Swamp Thing; Cultural Concurrence; Tower ’99 (69:06).
Dave Weckl, drums, percussion, hi hat tambourine; Brandon Fields, soprano sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, Yamaha WX5; Jay Oliver, keyboards, organ, synth solos; Buzz Feiten, guitars; Tommy Kennedy, bass.
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.