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Walt Weiskopf: All About the Sound

Bob Kenselaar By

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Weiskopf weighted in on fleshing out the rest of the group. "I love the idea of having two lead voices to work with. And I love the vibes. So, Mark said, 'Well, what about Behn?'"—that is, Behn Gillece, who collaborated with Weiskopf on Overdrive. Weiskopf remembers, "I said, 'Great!' All I need is a parameter. Just start me off, and I'll get to work." Drummer Steve Fidyk rounds out a quartet for The Way You Say It, and, as it turns out, the instrumentation—sax, organ, vibes and drums—is an uncommon one in jazz. "I hadn't thought about it until somebody else pointed it out, but, as a matter of fact, there's only a couple of records with that same configuration," says Weiskopf.

The focus for the compositions on the recording, according to Weiskopf, is "the way things sound—The Way You Say It. Mark had asked me to write an original ballad for this recording, and I got an idea for it from my wife's speaking voice, which I love. That's the title tune, "The Way You Say It," which has a kind of a double meaning on the old adage, 'it's not what you say, it's the way that you say it,' or, in jazz, 'it's not what you play but the way that you play it.'"

The album's opener, "Coffee and Scones," stands out in particular—a bright and highly infectious melody, likely destined for a fair amount of airplay on jazz radio. The title seems fitting, to the point that you might think it was the first line of lyrics, if there were any. But, actually, the title was partly producer Mark Free's idea. Weiskopf's real focus? Again, "I'm just trying to write good music."

Walt Weiskopf Quartet: LiveOther selections on the album include "Separation," one of very few of Weiskopf's compositions that he's recorded more than once, and "Inntoene," titled after the Austrian jazz festival where he's played several times. All but three of the dozen tunes on the recording are original compositions. Among the non-originals, "Scarlet Woman" is an unusual choice; it's credited to Alphonso Johnson, Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul and comes from Mysterious Traveler by Weather Report. Here, Weiskopf adapted an arrangement he used on trip to Europe, working with the German saxophonist Johannes Enders, among ofthers.

Taking the Lead Otherwise & Elsewhere

While much of Weiskopf's output consists of studio recordings, a live date recorded in 2008 and released in 2011 is especially notable, Walt Weiskopf Quartet (Capri), featuring pianist Renee Rosnes, bassist Paul Gill and drummer Tony Reedus, recorded at the University of South Carolina. "I never intended that to be released. I was invited to play there, and Renee and I are old friends. I was lucky enough to get her and Tony Reedus on a record years ago called Anytown [Criss Cross, 1999], with Joe Locke, a star-studded record the likes of which will probably never happen again. And, so, Renee was available, and we took Paul Gill along, and I had been playing a lot with Tony Reedus at the time, whom I loved. And then, about six months afterward, Tony died. I think I was aware along the way that the concert was being recorded. They sent me the recording, just as a courtesy. It obviously wasn't a studio recording. But the engineer, Jeff Francis, had worked with Sony and was a very experienced guy, and for a raw recording, it didn't sound bad at all. Tony's playing in particular was brilliant—absolutely brilliant. So, when I heard that he died, I decided I was going to try and do something with this. Jeff was terrific; we basically mixed for two days to put it together. I'm really glad we did it. The sound quality got some criticism, but it's the music that matters."

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