Contemporary jazz offers featured roles for electric guitar, electric bass, horns and keyboard. And then there’s the drummer. No longer a timekeeper, the drummer sits amid his extended set of percussion instruments and propels his band with a variety of tools. Dave Weckl employs practiced rudiments on his large set to create patterns that interact with the other band members. He stretches out occasionally, but prefers to share in each track’s creation instead. Guitarist Buzz Feiten breathes fire in a hard rock tradition. Pianist Jay Oliver chooses from the hundreds of distinct electronic keyboard sounds available to him and stretches out at will. Brandon Fields does better on the lively blues-derived numbers. That’s where he gets a chance to loosen up with his tenor sax, jump and jive, swing and sway; he’s having a good time.
The album contains both smooth jazz and fiery improvised jazz. "Panda’s Dream" and "A Simple Prayer" exemplify the lyrical nature of smooth jazz without spontaneity or swing. Several other pieces fall into the area between genres, and two-thirds of the album stands out as obvious contemporary jazz, smokin’ from start to finish. "Cape Fear" has an eerie quality, with solos from keyboard and guitar. The rumbling electric bass contributes to the track’s mystique. While "High Life" includes a lengthy drum solo with superb rudimentary techniques, the contrasting "Wet Skin" grows out of a loose R&B approach with gruff tenor sax interlude. Weckl performs "Cultural Concurrence" alone with snare drum, tom-toms, bass drum, smaller overdubbed specialized drums, and a few other primitive percussion instruments. It’s a place for the leader to show his skills; Weckl’s a clinician’s clinician.
The title track combines a melodic smooth jazz approach with fiery rhythms, as it changes shape several times throughout its arrangement. Synergy means working together; a combined action from two or more sources. Usually, the parties represent unlike quantities. On the one hand, there are lyrical melodies that float along on repetitive rhythms with predictable outcomes: smooth jazz. And on the other hand, there is music that swings while allowing the artists a chance to stretch out: jazz. Contemporary is added to the description to indicate when electronic instruments and rock-inspired techniques are employed. "Synergy" begins with a lyrical electric bass solo before jumping off into a rocking Latin affair with a few tasty solos. It’s an apt title for an album that combines smooth jazz with fiery rock-influenced contemporary jazz. Dave Weckl’s web site includes photographs and is located at http://www.daveweckl.com/indexdw.htm .
Track Listing: High Life; Panda
Personnel: Brandon Fields- tenor sax, soprano sax, keyboard, baritone sax; Jay Oliver- keyboards; Buzz Feiten- guitars; Tommy Kennedy- electric bass; Dave Weckl- drums, percussion.