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Walt Weiskopf: Worldwide

C. Andrew Hovan By

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Back in 1992, saxophonist Walt Weiskopf made his first date for Criss Cross Jazz, Simplicity. It is one of the most daring new recordings of the period, featuring Weiskopf's incendiary playing and stellar compositions. Over the course of the next ten albums for Criss Cross culminating with 2010's See the Pyramid, Weiskopf forged an amazingly varied catalog of music. The fact that so many jazz fans slept on these releases is still totally inexplicable.

Since 2002, Weiskopf has been a regular contributor to the music of Steely Dan as well as being part of their touring unit. This has helped increase his visibility, although he still remains woefully underrated. More recent times have seen Weiskopf recording for the Posi-Tone label and in 2016 he formed his European Quartet, a talented rhythm section featuring pianist Carl Winther, bassist Daniel Franck and drummer Anders Mogensen.

The quartet released their first album in 2018 on the small southern California label Orenda Records to favorable reviews. At the start of 2019, Weiskopf reconvened these Danish musicians, now with Andreas Lang on bass, for a tour and subsequent second recording date. The results are now available on Worldwide, a ten track collection of Weiskopf originals and two classic jazz chestnuts.

Weiskopf raises the bar for this latest gambit and his supporting cast is up for the challenge kicking off with the 7/8 groove of "Entebbe." Clearly these gentlemen find a shared camaraderie and Weiskopf seems to feed off their inspired support. Winther takes his cue from McCoy Tyner, while arriving at his own beguiling approach that suits Weiskopf's tenor to a tee. Mogensen seems to be his own man, both in the sonic presentation of his drums and his individualistic approach to time keeping. Holding down the bottom end, Lang's earthy tone and solid beat are further assets to the proceedings.

With his typical talent and flair, Weiskopf refashions two standards for his own purposes. "Russian Roulette" vaguely recalls the changes to "Let's Face the Music and Dance." Composed for his wife, "Marcie by Moonlight" tips the hat to "Stella By Starlight."

Many years back Weiskopf told this writer that he would only do jazz standards if he felt he could bring his own thing to the table. That is surely the case here with Tadd Dameron's "Soultrane." This masterful ballad interpretation illustrates how Weiskopf has used the John Coltrane vernacular in a way that is never coy or derivative. It is simply just a piece of the puzzle in Weiskopf's own highly distinctive voice. Quincy Jones' movie theme from "The Pawnbroker" seems tailor made for this approach, although Winther gets the lion's share of the solo space.

Weiskopf brings back two of his strongest pieces from previous albums and it's a pleasure to hear them in new interpretations. The upbeat waltz "Oceans" originally appeared on 1993's A World Away, where he found himself in the company of the Larry Goldings trio. This current version is every bit as strong with Weiskopf's fluidity across the entire range of his horn on display. Another triple-time melody, "Scottish Folk Song," starts with Weiskopf and Lang voicing the minor head in unison before the full ensemble strikes their hypnotic groove.

A burning "Coat of Arms" serves as the closing flag waver with stunning solos from Weiskopf and Winther, as well as some highly musical drum breaks provided by Mogensen. As part of the changing landscape of jazz and the record industry in general, Weiskopf has found himself a new niche that seems to be perfectly to his liking. The fact that this sustainable music needs to be heard by a "worldwide" audience goes without saying.

Track Listing: Entebbe; Back in Japan; Soultrane; Russian Roulette; Marcie by Moonlight; Back in Brazil; Oceans; The Pawnbroker; Scottish Folk Song; Coat of Arms.

Personnel: Walt Weiskopf: tenor saxophone; Andreas Lang: bass; Carl Winther: piano; Anders Mogensen: drums.

Title: Worldwide | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Orenda Records

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