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Walt Weiskopf: The Way You Say It

David A. Orthmann By

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The trail leading to The Way You Say It, the latest from tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, is marked by performances from superb Posi-Tone releases of recent vintage. Organist Brian Charette was the ballast of the 2015 Triple Play, a three tenor date led by Doug Webb, which featured Weiskopf. Vibraphonist Behn Gillece made significant contributions to Overdrive, Weiskopf's debut for the label in 2014. And drummer Steve Fidyk laid down a stable, stimulating beat throughout Open Road, Weiskopf's recording from last year. (FYI: Charette, Gillece and Fidyk have led recent Posi-Tone dates.) Since the absence of steady employment in clubs and other venues makes ongoing alliances nearly impossible, these ad hoc connections between like-minded players are the next best thing to a working band. Kudos to producer Marc Free for his discernment and willingness to do the spadework.

In part, the boisterous, give-and-take between four outgoing personalities makes the difference between a decent record and an exceptional one. The acoustic and electrically enabled instruments fit together comfortably, and the presence of the organ and vibes makes for some alluring textures. Throughout The Way You Say It the leader's tenor saxophone is as formidable as ever, yet he doesn't tower over the others or dominate the proceedings. "Coffee and Scones" contains five riveting blues choruses, and "Invisible Sun" exemplifies his penchant for shifts in velocity and changes in direction without any loss of cohesion. The bandmates aren't quite as expansive or far ranging as Weiskopf, yet they're not any less interesting, particularly on "Blues Combination" (Charette) and "Envisioned" (Gillece). With nary a misdirected stroke, Fidyk knows when to kick (check out the whiplash snare accents during portions of "Blues Combination" and "Envisioned") and when to lay back.

Weiskopf's compositions combine familiar and new perspectives. Some of the templates are recognizable from a substantial body of work; nonetheless the lines sound fresh and vital. (Two of his nine works on the record, "Separation" and "Invisible Sun," were written in the late twentieth century.) An excellent example of Weiskopf's up-tempo efforts, the slippery, effusive "Blues Combination" seems to move in a couple of directions at once, all the while maintaining a semblance of order. Just try and savor one phrase before it races by and leads to another—and another. "Manny Boy" evinces a jaunty, celebratory air that is enhanced by a handful of brisk, twisting phrases. Taken at a relaxed pace, the title track is pensive, relatively spare, and heartfelt. A diverse trio of covers, "Candy" (inspired by Ray Charles' version), "Scarlet Woman" (originally recorded by Weather Report) and Charlie Parker's iconic "Segment," don't sound out of place amidst Weiskopf's originals.

Weiskopf is the rare artist whose mid-career efforts eclipse the considerable triumphs of his earlier years. The Way You Say It is a confident, brilliantly executed account of his current perspectives as a player, leader and musical thinker. I'm looking forward to the next chapter of Weiskopf's evolution.

Track Listing: Coffee and Scones; Separation; Inntoene; Dreamlining; Blues Combination; Candy; Envisioned; Invisible Sun; Manny Boy; Scarlet Woman; Segment; The Way You Say It.

Personnel: Walt Weiskopf: tenor saxophone; Brian Charette: organ; Behn Gillece: vibraphone; Steve Fidyk: drums.

Title: The Way You Say It | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Posi-Tone Records

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