Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Dave Weckl Band Synergy Stretch 1999

I seem to be on a nostalgic tip these days. There are a great many dynamic and incredibly inventive releases that can simply slip past us during our busy lives and then there are those that are simply not worth the cost of the jewel box ( remember those ?) they come in. The Dave Weckl Band's Synergy is one of those releases that while over a decade old could easily be dropped as a new release today and sound just as fresh. Jazz/rock, fusion, or modern contemporary are some of genre tags you can try and lay on this release with none fitting just right. Weckl and his tighter than tight band push modern jazz past generic genre and into perhaps a slightly more eclectic world music form and functionality and may well be a release you will find yourself returning to again and again. Of course a former editor would caution me in telling the reader what to expect to which I counter that a shared perspective on artistic expression is simply that - an opinion. It's how I roll.

Originally released in 1999, Synergy may arguably be the finest Dave Weckl Band release to date. Ironically 1999 was about as close as you can get to the golden age of the now struggling radio format known as smooth jazz, at the very least it was at a time when the more serious fusion bands were being gently pushed aside for the more radio friendly sounds of Earl Klugh, Bob James, and Spyro Gyra. There is a common misconception that I simply do not care for smooth jazz. Not true...While this misconception may be partially my fault, I love my contemporary jazz with more substance. I like to hear a distinctive sound and something that is slightly more cerebral than "Morning Dance" the Spyro Gyra classic.

Synergy works because of the organic feel and spontaneous harmonic roots that seems to permeate this recording. The tunes here are essentially short jam sessions, the end result of inspired creativity that for one reason or another never fully made it to the process of "roll tape." Some of the jam sessions are simply lost with the remaining half finding their way to this release for some of Weckl's most creative and inspired playing of his illustrious career.

Essentially the same and very familiar cast of characters are here because after all, if it ain't broke don't fix it. "High Life" kicks the release off with an infectious use of a drum groove inspired from music from Africa. "A Simple Prayer" is a gorgeous ballad featuring the nylon string with of Buzz Feiten. Perhaps my personal favorite and certainly a tune of note is "Swunk." This particular tune was inspired from grooves played by Peter Erskine and Jaco Pastorius. A sonic exploratory where the great Brandon Fields moves towards a deceptively subtle bebop motif on his tenor saxophone. Flavor, texture and swing abounds in a release that is simple Dave Weckl in his wheelhouse doing a riff on himself. Synergy sounds as fresh today as it did when it first hit the streets well over a decade ago.

Tracks: High Life; Panda's Dream; Swunk; A Simple Prayer; Cape Fear; Wet Skin; Synergy; Where's My Paradise; Lucky Seven; Swamp Thing; Cultural Concurrence; Tower '99.

Personnel: Brandon Fields: sax; Jay Oliver: keyboards; Buzz Feiten: guitar; Tommy Kennedy: bass; Dave Weckl: drums.