Sunday, June 3, 2018
Dave Weckl - 1999 "Synergy"
Although Dave Weckl is an excellent drummer, not all of his recordings have been excellent. In the 1990s, you never knew if you would find something exciting or mundane on a Weckl album. But this fusion/soul-jazz disc turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Synergy, in fact, is the drummer's most consistently satisfying CD. Excessive producing was a major problem on some of his previous releases, but this time he generally avoids overproducing and goes for a real band sound. Joined by tenor and soprano saxman Brandon Fields, keyboardist Jay Oliver, guitarist Buzz Feiten, and electric bassist Tom Kennedy, Weckl has a solid team to work with and emphasizes improvisation and honest-to-God playing not high-tech studio gloss. Weckl's band sounds quite cohesive on a diverse, unpredictable outing that ranges from the funky "Wet Skin" and the Latin-influenced title song to the ominous "Cape Fear" and the delicate "A Simple Prayer." If you could purchase only one of Weckl's 1990s albums, Synergy would be the best choice.
Dave Weckl's fifth CD would have been just another good one in a string of many save one thing: the addition of guitar great Buzz Feiten to his usual outstanding rhythm section of Tommy Kennedy on bass and Jay Oliver on keyboards. Feiten's playing and writing talents lifted this release to a level not quite achieved since, giving the whole set an electric edge you can both hear and feel. This CD was recorded on the heels of an extensive tour, and I can only imagine the on stage excitement and creativity that led to such an outstanding musical set.
Audio quality is outstanding throughout, driven by Weckl's accomplished studio techniques and penchant for perfection. High Life is signature Dave Weckl, with an African-inspired drum groove over a tight rhythm section ending in a ridiculous drum solo. Panda's Dream is one of those Buzz Feiten tunes that makes this CD unique; it features a rock groove and guitar lead that makes this one of my all-time favorite Dave Weckl tunes. Swunk features a kind of half-time driving swing famous among drummers (and made popular by Weather Report) for how fun it is to play; checkout the full-blown straight-time swing under a good sax solo. A Simple Prayer is a Feiten ballad featuring a dreamy acoustic guitar. Cape Fear is an interesting groove with a haunting guitar melody, but nothing prepares you for the killer bass solo that ends the tune. After an opening bass solo, the title cut (Synergy) makes you want to get up and dance, and is also one of my favorites on the CD. Where's My Paradise is a second ballad written by Feiten and Oliver featuring some nice acoustic guitar work. Swamp Thing is another rocker featuring Buzz Feiten with a great horn lead, and quickly became one of my all-time favorite Dave Weckl tunes. If you're keeping count, that's two (2!) tracks off of one CD that made my "all-time favorite" list, and both are either written or co-written by Buzz Feiten featuring solos by the same. The last two cuts are really throw-aways for me: Cultural Concurrence is the obligatory Dave Weckl triggered drum solo, and Tower '99 is a re-work of Tower Of Inspiration off of his first CD (Master Plan). It's a nice groove, but I recommend checking out the original that features a killer horn arrangement.
Drummer Dave Weckl gained such a cultlike following playing with Chick Corea's Elektric and Akoustic bands in the 1980s that he could probably release an album of solo wood-block tapping and have it sell enough copies to make the effort worthwhile. So it's a pleasant surprise that Synergy is a decidedly group effort that thrusts the varied compositional talents and versatility of Weckl and his bandmates to the forefront instead of merely showcasing the leader's drum chops. Not that Weckl has been letting those chops sag; his solo percussion odyssey "Cultural Concurrence" and his ferocious soloing over the Latin groove of the title track are enough to give air drummers everywhere a workout. But what makes Synergy more listenable than some of Weckl's other efforts is the inspired group interplay that finds him and his longtime touring ensemble--saxophonist Brandon Fields, keyboardist Jay Oliver, guitarist Buzz Feiten, and bassist Tommy Kennedy--locking in on grooves that push beyond his normal jazz-fusion terrain. From the West African feel of "High Life" to the Cajun-tinged "Swamp Thing" to the swanky James Brown funk of "Wet Skin," Synergy is an inspired and varied outing.
01 "High Life"
02 "Panda's Dream"
04 "A Simple Prayer"
05 "Cape Fear"
06 "Wet Skin"
08 "Where's My Paradise?"
09 "Lucky Seven"
10 "Swamp Thing"
11 "Cultural Concurrence"
12 "Tower '99"
Dave Weckl - drums, tambourine, percussion
Brandon Fields - soprano, tenor & baritone saxophones, keyboards, synthesizer
Jay Oliver - organ, keyboards, synthesizer
Buzz Feiten - electric, nylon string & steel string guitars
Tom Kennedy - bass
Posted by Crimhead420 at 9:17 PM