The Dave Weckl Band Reunites For ‘Live in St. Louis at the Chesterfield Jazz Festival 2019’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Legendary drummer Dave Weckl convened his band for the first time in 15 years for a slate at the 2019 Chesterfield Wine & Jazz Festival in St. Louis, his hometown. This was special in that the band had not played together in more than a decade and this particular unit in two decades.  Founding members keyboardist Jay Oliver and bassist Tom Kennedy, were joined for the first time in 20 years by guitarist Buzz Feiten. Rounding out the quintet is band member since 2003, saxophonist Gary Meek.  As you’d guess, most of this music was conceived 25 or 30 years ago in jazz-fusion’s ‘renaissance movement’ of sorts. Some astute readers will recognize the names of Oliver and Feiten (and, of course, Weckl) from Rob Silverman’s Drumology, reviewed on these pages last October. It was the Silverman brothers, Rob and Mike, who invited Weckl to appear at the festival with his iconic band. {Note- Coincidentally (or not?) two of the drummers strongly associated with the late giant Chick Corea – Steve Gadd and Dave Weckl, have issued their albums with their respective bands in consecutive months}.

Weckl comments, “It was a very joyous, special moment from down beat one. From the very first song that started rehearsing there was such a great sound and a great feeling, even though the chemistry was a little bit different in the sense that Buzz had never played with Gary.” The Dave Weckl Band was formed in 1998, after the drummer has released four all-star studio efforts featuring guests Chick Corea, Michael Brecker, Steve Gadd, Eric Marienthal, Anthony Jackson, John Patitucci and James Genus. Wanting to tour his music Weckl assembled his band with constant collaborator Oliver as well as Kennedy, Feiten and saxophonist Brandon Fields. More than half of these tunes are culled from the band’s 1998 debut, Rhythm of the Soul.

The begin with the funky, tight “The Zone” which signals that this will be one spirited, celebratory show. Kennedy and Weckl set Meek up beautifully for his aggressive solo on the punchy “Big B, Little B.” Standout “Mud Sauce” brings a swampy groove for Feiten’s gutbucket, wrenching guitar solo, matched by Meek’s fiery turn and Kennedy’s bubbling bass lines. Others from that debut include the soulful Stevie Wonder “Superstition” inspired “101 Shuffle” and later, the sultry ballad “song for Claire.” The band closes their performance with the explosive “Access Denied” in a set of powerful jazz-fusion by masters of the idiom. But these comprise only half of the energetic set.

Others date to Weckl’s solo work for the lyrical “Tribute,” featuring an awe-inspiring elegant piano intro from Oliver, the song taken form 1994’s Hard Wired. Weckl’s 1990 solo debut Master Plan contributes the monstrous funk of “Tower of Inspiration” while 1999’s Synergy delivers the mid-temp track of the same name. “What Happened To My Good Shoes” is of more recent vintage, Of the Same Mind, the 2015 release by the Dave Weckl Acoustic Band. We get a duo turn from the longtime rhythm tandem Weckl and Kennedy on Monk’s “Rhythm-a-Ning,” a longtime staple in their performances, and an especially animated delivery here.

This band is on fire! Even if you’ve put your fusion albums aside for a while, this may re-ignite your desire to hear some of them again. This band is incredibly tight, belying the notion that they hadn’t played together in so long. Weckl comments, “Even though we’ve all kept in touch over the years, it’s always a special thing to do a project together. In a way, it’s like sitting in an old rocking chair – very familiar. But at the same time, it’s very different based on everybody’s experiences and growth since the last time we played…. Especially now, to be able to share the live experience since many of us haven’t had much of a chance to do this lately, since it feels like we’ve been living on another planet. I think people are hungrier than ever just to have a reminder like this.”  Yes, not only might this re-invigorate your need to hear well-played fusion but it will almost inevitably increase your desire to hear live music again.  It’s coming – hopefully, we only need a few more months.

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