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Joel Weiskopf: The Search

C. Andrew Hovan By

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The time was ripe for 37-year-old pianist Joel Weiskopf to make his maiden voyage as a leader. Known as the younger brother of tenor phenom Walt Weiskopf, Joel's seasoned experiences in music include nine years of training in classical piano, graduation from the New England Conservatory of Music, and gigs with Teddy Kotick, George Garzone, Tim Hagans, and Woody Herman. All this in addition to his much-valued contributions to brother Walt's Criss Cross catalog and a few other dates for the label as a sideman.

What immediately impresses one about Joel's style is his total command of the instrument, his creative muse finding its voice without strain. Dense and incendiary as a McCoy Tyner one minute, he can be as tastefully sparse and melodic as influences Errol Garner and Ahmad Jamal the next. Variance and diversity mark the shrewd program of standards and originals heard here, with Weiskopf's range and versatility hinted at without turning things into an incoherent grab bag.

Wayne Shorter's "Edda" provides the type of changes that Weiskopf just eats up with ease. He's also confident enough to try a turn at Monk's "Criss Cross" and does so in a manner that retains the tune's spirit, but let's his own poetic identity show through. The lengthy title track is a microcosm of taste and creativity, with the group interplay making for a seductive listen, but then bassist Peter Washington and drummer Billy Drummond are both quite a wonder throughout. Their musical integrity and ability to inspire make both of these talented men an asset to any fellow musician. How could you not be pushed to the max as a soloist with Peter and Billy around?

So let's see, he's got ballads covered and up tempo romps, but can he handle the blues parlance? No problem, as "Red's Blues" more than amply demonstrates. Then, as if to resolve things on a quiet note, a stunning solo reading of "My One and Only Love" closes out a momentous debut. There's a whole lot of piano going on here and Joel's ability to establish himself as a major voice is without question.


Track Listing: Edda, Bess You is My Woman Now, It Could Happen To You, Song For the Lost, Criss Cross, One For Karl, The Search, Red's Blues, My One and Only Love (64:44)

Personnel: Joel Weiskopf- piano, Peter Washington- bass, Billy Drummond- drums

| Record Label: Criss Cross | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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