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NCPR news interviews Walt Weiskopf…

Steely Dan Saxophonist Walt Weiskopf releases new CD

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Saxophonist Walt Weiskopf has a regular, high-profile gig as the saxophonist for Steely Dan. But he’s a prolific composer/arranger and forceful, innovative straight ahead jazz player. His new CD on Positone Records is “Overdrive” and he talked with Joel Hurd when Steely Dan made a stop in Ottawa on August 26, 2014.


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David Orthmann reviews Walt Weiskopf “Overdrive”…

Walt Weiskopf - Overdrive cover






Here’s a proposition for anyone who is about to plunk down their hard earned dollars on Steely Dan’s Jamalot Ever After Tour. For a mere fraction of the cost of a ticket you can invest in a copy ofOverdrive, the recently released set of original music byWalt Weiskopf, the band’s longtime tenor saxophonist. A viable alternative to the pleasures of SD’s warhorses, the disc has a “greatest hits” vibe of its own. It’s a composite of the dozen or so records under his leadership released over the past twenty-five years. Weiskopf, who often uses down time during SD’s tours to work on compositions, continues to develop a recognizable, challenging and invigorating sound which incorporates disciplined musicianship, adventuresome structures, memorable melodies, and a tightly wound group concept that yields surprises, large and small.

The leader’s tenor sets the tone of most of the tracks, especially the compositions “Like Mike,” “Four Horsemen,” and a wicked section of “Midwinter Night’s Dream,” all of which sound like they were generated by the horn. Weiskopf partially offsets the galvanizing effect of his instrument by utilizing the comparatively sedate sounds of Behn Gillece‘s vibraphone and Yotam Silberstein‘s guitar. By allowing a limited number of solos on most of the cuts and keeping the improvisations (by today’s standards) relatively brief, he avoids disconnect between the heads and solos and steers clear of the longwinded quality that pervades many current jazz recordings. Another unifying factor is the presence of subtle, smartly placed, written figures behind the soloists during tracks such as “The Path Is Narrow,” “Overdrive,” and “Waltz For Dad.” Weiskopf evinces a tender, romantic streak on “Jewel And A Flower” and “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life” (the only standard on the record). A jarring, no nonsense, blues sensibility fuels his heads and solos on “Night Vision” and “No Biz.”

As of this writing the only opportunity to hear Weiskopf on his own terms is a pair of dates at Smalls Jazz Club in New York City in mid-December. Speaking as someone who can testify to the intensity of his live shows, I believe that Overdrive is a fitting substitute for the experience of sitting in close proximity and feeling his sound resonate through your nervous system. Not unlike the best jazz recordings, it works on a visceral level, and most importantly, it’s a brilliant representation of the breadth and depth of Weiskopf’s talent.
Track Listing: The Path Is Narrow; Like Mike; Jewel And A Flower; Night Vision; Overdrive; Waltz For Dad; Four Horsemen; Midwinter Night’s Dream; What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?; No Biz.

Personnel: Walt Weiskopf:tenor saxophone; Behn Gillece: vibraphone; Yotam Silberstein: guitar; Peter Zak: piano; David Wong: bass; Donald Edwards: drums.




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More All About Jazz coverage for Walt Weiskopf “Overdrive”…


Walt Weiskopf: Overdrive (2014)


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Walt Weiskopf: Overdrive

Since making his first two records on the independent Iris label back in the early ’90s, Walt Weiskopf has staked a claim as one of the most advanced and iconic tenor saxophonists in jazz. However, even as he went on to record one great record after another for Criss Cross beginning in 1993, Weiskopf remained under the radar of most listeners and seldom even registered on most critics polls.

Over the past several years his profile has risen via regular road work with the groupSteely Dan. What is great about this particular role is that within the framework of a popular touring act, there still is plenty of space for Weiskopf to exert himself musically. Although it’s been four long years since his last Criss Cross date, See the Pyramid, Weiskopf has fortunately joined the fold at Posi-Tone and his debut for the label is yet another singular release in his distinguished catalog.

Weiskopf is a talented improviser, but his real strengths have also always come in his compositional genius. This is no less the case with this new effort. And like his greatest work, Weiskopf always sounds best when he fills his ensembles with other lead voices. That signature blend of angular melodies is there at the get-go of “The Path is Narrow,” with Weiskopf’s tenor speaking in tandem with Yotam Silberstein‘s guitar. The upbeat vibe of “Like Mike” trades the guitar unison with the vibes of Behn Gillece, reminding one of the great teaming of Weiskopf and Joe Locke on the Criss Cross set Anytown. During his solo, the tenor saxophonist steams forward with a rush of quicksilver ideas that seem to be bursting at the seams. Then the tempo switches to cut time after a restating of the theme, leading to some collective interplay between Weiskopf and Silberstein.

Providing the perfect bookend to complement the previously penned “Song for My Mother,” the lovely “Waltz for Dad” includes a nice melodic hook at the end of the leading phrase. Drummer Donald Edwards a mainstay of the Weiskopf fold for the past several albums, boots things along nicely as pianist Peter Zak makes his own piquant statement with sly backing lines provides by Weiskopf and Gillece. 



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Walt Weiskopf and Ralph Bowen get high praise from Richard Kamins of StepTempest …

If ever there was an apropos name for recording, “Overdrive” is the one.  The brand new CD by saxophonist/composer Walt Weiskopf, his debut on Posi-Tone, is powered by the rhythm section of Donald  Edwards(drums), David Wong (bass) and Peter Zak (piano). The leader, who sticks to tenor sax for this date, also utilizes the talents of Yotam Silberstein (guitar) and label mate Behn Gillece(vibraphone).

The program powers out of the gate with the first of 9 original compositions, “The Path Is Narrow.”  The saxophonist heads straight to hard-bop territory but, to his credit, all the songs have solid melody lines.  His insistent attack, powerful tone and forceful solos stand out on pieces such as “Like Mike” (the lightning fast melody line will pin you to the chair), the title track (where Edwards’ cymbals set a torrid pace) and “No Biz” (where Weiskopf delivers a Coltrane-esque solo and Silberstein channels Charlie Christian).  The blend of Gillece’s vibes with the guitar, sax and piano on “Night Vision” stands out – the mix is so clear each instrument stands out.


The program includes several lovely ballads.  “Jewel And A  Flower” opens with a lovely melody and is notable for the harmony created by Zak’s left hand and the bass.  The vibes serve to color the melody and frees Wong to create counterpoint to the sax.  The blend of guitar and saxophone on the theme of “Waltz For Dad” fills out the sound, leaving both the piano and vibes to create the sumptuous background. The one non-orginal track, Michel LeGrand’s “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life“, a piece one might expect to hear as a ballad, is taken at a a medium tempo, giving the song a lighter feel.

Walt Weiskopf released 9 CDs for Gerry Teekens’ Criss Cross label (10, if you also count the season he co-led with saxophonist And Fusco), recordings that featured ensembles of various sizes, especially the 2 nonet albums. “Overdrive” displays his craftsmanship as both a musician and composer (his compositions all have very good melodies).  This is good music to play with the windows open, bright and appealing.  For more information, go to

Standard Deviation“, the 5th Posi-Tone release for tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen, is another recording that lives up to its name.  The program is comprised of all standards, an approach that Bowen has yet to attempt in his discography.  However, the saxophonist does not deviate from his style;  he’s a powerful player with a full sound yet always keeps melody foremost in his music.  Joining him in this venture is Donald Edwards (drums) and Kenny Davis (bass) – the rhythm section from 2011’s “Power Play” release  – plus pianist Bill O’Connell

The quartet has fun with these pieces, some of which are considered “evergreens.” The program opens with Richard Rodgers’ “Isn’t It Romantic” (originally performed by Jeanette MacDonald in the 1932 movie “Love Me Tonight”). The rhythm section pushes the tempo up while both Bowen and O’Connell swing the heck out of the piece, the former adding real muscle to his sound.  Jerome Kern composed “Yesterdays” for the 1933 film “Roberta”.  Here, the pianist’s arrangement adds a Latin feel and lets Bowen loose over the energetic drumming (Edwards’ ability to “drive” an ensemble has been well documented over the past few years, from his work with pianist Orrin Evans to the Mingus Big Band.)

One of the other better-known piece on the CD is “You Don’t Know What Love Is“, composed by Gene de Paul (music) and Don Raye (lyrics), was originally composed for a movie starring Abbott & Costello (!) but was eventually pulled.  The movie studio, Universal, then placed the song in one its lesser productions (starring The Ritz Brothers).  The movie is long forgotten but the song as been recorded by countless pop and jazz artists.  Bowen and company play the song as a smoky ballad, with a most passionate reading by the leader.

O’Connell’s left hand joins with the bass of Davis to underpin the latin-inspired rhythms of Cole Porter’s “Dream Dancing“, the track with the longest and arguably, best tenor solo on the CD and that follows a wonderful solo by the pianist. Davis creates a furious walking line on the final track, “By Myself“, serving as a launching pad for a fiery tenor solo and rollicking work from Edwards.

Standard Deviation” is anything but standard or deviant. What it is is good music, fine playing and a pleasure to listen to.  For more information, go to or

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Midwest Records chimes in on Walt Weiskopf “Overdrive”…

WALT WEISKOPF/Overdrive: Delightful. A modern day cat that can deliver the daddio without the pretension. A driving, swinging straight ahead sax led session, this cat can blow and wail up a storm of late night oomph that makes you wonder where all the energy comes from. The back up crew is right in step making this a winner throughout. By all means, check it out.

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Walt Weiskopf is on WBGO’s radar with “Overdrive”…


Walt Weiskopf - Overdrive cover






Walt Weiskopf is a “man of many colors,” to take from the title of one of his previous recordings.

The tenor saxophonist has been featured in the big bands of Buddy Rich and Toshiko Akiyoshi.

His diverse sideman credits include work with Frank Sinatra, Steely Dan and Steve Smith’s Jazz Legacy.

His instruction books like “Intervallic Improvisation” have been used and recommended by saxophone greats James Moody and Michael Brecker for broadening the horizons of jazz improvisation.

Weiskopf has passed his knowledge along as instructor at the Eastman School, Temple University, and starting this Fall at New Jersey City University.

But to hear Walt Weiskopf play is simply the main event. His new recording, Overdrive, from Posi-Tone Records, provides us with an energized listen to the art of improvisation.

He’s assembled a sextet for his 13th recording as leader, with vibraphonist Behn Gillece, bassist David Wong, guitarist Yotam Silberstein, drummer Donald Edwards and pianist Peter Zak, featured on two previous Weiskopf outings, “See The Pyramid” and “Day In Night Out” (Criss Cross).

“Overdrive” is made up of all Weiskopf originals save one.

“The Path Is Narrow,” with the opening statement in tandem from the leader and guitarist Silberstein, sets a wide open head bobbin’ pace for pianist Zak to show his stuff. Weiskopf demonstrates his is a pent up house waiting to be heard.

I suspect “Like Mike” to be a tribute to Michael Brecker. This original blisters with the tenorist setting a furious pace. The group delights in keeping up, with Silberstein showing his guitar mettle at the out.

Walt shows us how pretty a tenor saxophone sounds on his “Jewel And A Flower”. It gives the listener some soft pretty moments to ponder.

“Night Vision” is a 20/20 listen to exploring what’s ahead, though unknown, making us want to be part of the journey. The leader hands off to some nice moments with Gillece’s vibraphone and Siberstein’s guitar.

Zak’s piano chops are first rate. Bassist David Wong takes us further, showing this group knew the route all along.

The angular title track, “Overdrive”, with it’s stop time intro shows the muscle of Weiskopf’s playing, inventive chops cutting a path  the rest of the musicians thoroughly enjoy taking.

The relaxed feel of “Waltz For Dad” is a group dance, highlighted by Gillece’s Bobby Hutcherson feel, leading into some further sax steps as piano, bass and drums show us some new moves too.

“Four Horsemen” has these six riders at full speed, with Zak’s piano in a gallop, the leader playing with abandon, Gillece’s vibraphone neck and neck and the listener holding on for more.


A “Manteca”-like riff opens “Midwinter Night’s Dream.” No cold feet here as Weiskopf’s hearty blowing is surrounded by the fire of the vibraphonist and pianist. Wong’s bottom and drummer Edwards make this dream come true.

“I don’t see a point for me doing a standard on a record unless there’s some kind of different sound or spin to it,” Weiskopf has said before.

“What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life” was composed by Michel Legrand with lyrics from Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Weiskopf’s arrangement gives this gem a latin feel for the group to cover some new ground. Once again the saxophonist shows his agility in making a standard his own.

“No Biz” closes the date with a straight ahead blowing statement, the kind a band plays when they want you to stay for the next set. I’m sure you will.

“Overdrive” comes out June 10th, just as Weiskopf gears up for a summer long tour with Steely Dan.

   – Gary Walker, WBGO music director


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Another great review for Walt Weiskopf “Overdrive”…

Walt Weiskopf – Overdrive (Posi-Tone, 2014)

Tenor saxophone player Walt Weiskopf leads a sextet on this album, including Behn Gillece on vibes, Yotam Silberstein on guitar, Peter Zak on piano, David Wong on bass and Donald Edwards on drums. All of these musicians acquit themselves admirably, but is is Weiskopf’s show and his muscular tenor saxophone is the center of attention throughout. Steely modern mainstream jazz is the order of the day and the leader particularly excels on fast paced material like the opening song “The Path Is Narrow” and the composition “Like Mike” which is presumably titled in honor of the late saxophonist Michael Brecker. “Night Vision” and the closer “The Biz” swing mightily, and allow for a round-robin series of solos, highlighting each band member’s talent.


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Bop n Jazz reviews Walt Weiskopf’s new CD “Overdrive”…

Walt Weiskopf - Overdrive cover




Walt Weiskopf’s harmonic vision goes full throttle on the stellar release Overdrive!
Critically acclaimed tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf has assembled a top flight sextet for a romp through primarily original compositions that are adventurous, inventive, and most of all swing hard! Weiskopf has always been consistent and one of the stronger lyrical players working the scene today but Overdrive would seem to find Weiskopf hitting that musical happy place of inspired and inspiring compositions that push the lyrical envelope but not the listener into the harmonic abysses.
The tunes here are forward thinking and diverse, a rhythmic whirling dervish of sound and texture with the collective working with that rare synergy of a working band that reminds one of some of the better Blue Note recordings of the mid 60’s. “Night Vision” is a blues infused swing with an articulated execution. After an opening and blistering introduction from Weiskopf, Behn Gillece, Yotam Silberstein, Peter Zak and David Wong join in for a methodical  and grooving game of follow the leader. The nuanced finesse of drummer Donald Edwards takes in the pocket to the next level and the solo work from the collective is smoldering! The articulated percussive pop of “Overdrive” features an undulating if not hypnotic rhythmic opening before Weiskopf takes off with another stellar solo performance. The only cover would be that of “What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?” and staying in character this odd metered reharm is taken at a brisk pace.
Walt Weiskopf achieves a dynamic offering of a cutting edge approach while never hitting those self indulgent landmines others seem to trip with ease. An all star band, smoking original tunes, and perhaps the finest recorded session to date, Walt Weiskopf has arrived!


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Walt Weiskopf new CD “Overdrive” reviewed on All About Jazz…. 

Walt Weiskopf - Overdrive cover







After a string of well-received dates on the Criss Cross imprint, and a one-off for the Capri label, tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf arrives at Posi-Tone with this pleasing sextet date. The music on Overdrive is all original, save for the penultimately-placed cover of Michel Legrand‘s “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?,” and it affirms Weiskopf’s commitment to (mostly) high energy, no-nonsense jazz.

With saxophone, vibraphone, guitar, piano, bass, and drums, this band can be looked at from two different angles: It’s a saxophone-fronted group with an expanded rhythm section, but it’s also an outfit with a saxophone-vibraphone-guitar front line and a standard piano trio rhythm section. It functions both ways, but the latter scenario, which generates the most heat, is the primary mode of operation for this band.

Overdrive hits most of the stylistic targets that listeners have come to expect from modern jazz recordings. Weiskopf locks in with vibraphonist Behn Gillece as the impressive-and-angular “Like Mike” unfolds; he visits in on the blues in Coltrane-esque fashion during “Night Vision”; he delivers a reflective ballad in the form of “Jewel And A Flower,”; and he works the funky-and-choppy angle on the title track. Weiskopf also shows himself to be an exciting and tireless soloist on numbers like the burning “Four Horsemen,” but he’s hardly the only soloist of note on this date. Gillece gets ample space to cut loose, guitaristYotam Silberstein contributes a delightfully devious solo on “Overdrive,” and pianistPeter Zak shines on the peppy “Midwinter Night’s Dream.”

While Weiskopf covers ground that’s often tread upon, he does so in his own way, and his music still offers plenty of surprises. The aforementioned soloists throw curveballs into the mix, “Like Mike” takes a surprising loping swing turn during its final minutes, and “What Are Your Doing The Rest Of Your Life?” is streamlined, metrically altered, and stripped of sentimentality. This is music that meets and defies expectations all at once.



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Walt Weiskopf “Overdrive” is the main course today on the Jazz Breakfast…

Walt Weiskopf – Overdrive

overdrive(Posi-Tone PR8126)

Despite the fact that this is his 14th album as leader, Weiskopf might be best known outside of pure jazz circles as the current tenor saxophonist of choice for Steely Dan. As a successor to such luminaries of the most elegantly curved crook as Chris Potter,  Pete Christlieb, Tom Scott and Michael Brecker, you can expect the right mix of power and meticulousness, and that is just what you get.

There is a moment in Like Mike, the second track on this sextet set, when the band goes into a set of Dannish chords, and Weiskopf is joined in the improvisational melee by guitarist Yotam Silberstein, but elsewhere his sometime employers are not discernible as an influence.

All the tunes are Weiskopf originals apart from a Latin-tinged What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?

This is straight-ahead, modern jazz with loads of fast, muscular playing, though the pace does relax forJewel And A Flower, and for Waltz For Dad. The addition of Behn Gillece’s vibraphone to the piano trio and guitar band provides some tasty timbres, and Gillece is especially flavourful on the Waltz.

I doubt Weiskopf will ever reach the popular heights of those Dan predecessors – he is more engaged in educational stuff a lot of the time – but this is still a most enjoyable cruise in overdrive with lots of space to showcase the leader’s no-bullshit approach.