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The Way Walt Weiskopf Plays It

mindset2One of the musical highlights in a Wisconsin summer full of them is the scheduled appearance of Steely Dan and Steve Winwood at the BMO Harris Pavilion in Milwaukee on July 16th.

The Inquisition suspects that there are many upsides to being Donald Fagen and Walter Becker; one is that after four decades of critical acclaim and multi-platinum albums including Grammy Best Album-winning “Two Against Nature,” the duo is positioned to record and tour with their choice of the best players in the world.

Exhibit A is tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, whose new album, “The Way You Say It,” is receiving outstanding reviews.

Fox Cities jazz aficionados may recall Weiskopf from his outstanding contributions to former Big Band Reunion leader and Lawrence University professor Bob Levy’s breakthrough album, “Crossover,” on Stellar Sound Productions that also included John Harmon, Janet Planet, Tom Washatka, Dane Richeson, Ken Schaphorst and Matt Turner. Weiskopf played on four cuts and contributed his own original composition, “Southwest Blues.”

“Walt is a great player who has been influenced by all the great ones,” Levy said. “It was a real kick playing with him. He’s very easy-going and very giving. There is no ego with Walt. He’s got a lot of confidence but without ego.”

Weiskopf and his tenor sax will take the stage with Steely Dan in Milwaukee. His technical prowess and his team-play mindset have made him an excellent addition to the band for the last 15 years.

“In 2002 I got a call for horn section dates for (Steely Dan’s album) “Everything Must Go” and subsequently was called to play on the title tune,” Weiskopf recalls. “The following January, Walter (Becker) called me and asked me to tour with the band that year and of course I said I would be thrilled to do it. Since the ’03 tour, we’ve toured in ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’11, ’13, ’14, and ’15 as well as this year. In 2010 and ’12, I toured with The Dukes of September; a band led by Donald with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald.”

He was also a key contributor to Fagen’s solo albums, “Morph The Cat,” and “Sunken Condos.”

“I love being a part of a great band and Steely Dan is certainly all of that,” Weiskopf said. “Playing with this band since 2003 has been a great pleasure and continues to be a hugely artistic, gratifying and creative challenge.”

Weiskopf has sixteen albums of his own to his credit; “The Way You Say It” is his third release for Posi-Tone Records, following the critically-acclaimed “Overdrive” (2014) and “Open Road” (2015). Its twelve cuts include nine Weiskopf originals including the title tune. It features organist Brian Charette, Behn Gillece playing vibraphone and drummer Steve Fidyk, all of whom are beneficiaries of Weiskopf’s generosity and respond with inspired playing and solos that are superb complements to his virtuosity and command of his instrument.

The title composition is the closing track on the album. Gillece sets the stage for some of Weiskopf’s most heart-felt and melodic playing augmented by Charette’s understated support. Weiskopf did not have to go very far for inspiration.

“The Way You Say It,” is dedicated to my wife, Marcie,” he said. “She has the most pleasing, inviting, tuneful speaking voice I’ve ever heard and it always reminds that it’s not what you play, it’s how you play it and it’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it.”

The album opens with Weiskopf’s “Coffee and Scones,” an up-tempo valentine to “two of my favorite things,” that showcases each musician’s talents in solos that are energetic and melodic, but never forced and fit easily into the groove. The subject matter is not just inspirational but practical.

“I like a dark roast red eye and a blueberry scone – the blueberry gives me the illusion that I am eating healthy – followed by 90 minutes of practicing my horn on a caffeine high.”

Another Weiskopf original “Separation,” follows, and the composer bookends Charette’s precise yet beautifully understated solo with some of his best and most inventive playing.

“For me personally, being on the road apart from the one you love for long periods of time is the most challenging thing about being a musician,” Weiskopf said. “I am so lucky the beautiful woman I married understands my career as a musician.”

On the flip side, Weiskopf’s musical wanderings have taken him to some fabulous places.

“Inntoene, is a tip-of-the-hat to one of the best international jazz festivals anywhere,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back to the beautiful town of Diersbach, Austria, and play with these great musicians.”

The band blends seamlessly at the outset of “Dreamlining,” an examination of “the best kind of dreaming – floating effortlessly and swinging from the clouds – the kind of dream that you wish would last longer than it usually does” before Weiskopf steps out and explores the lower registers of his tenor and Charette eases into yet another ear-pleasing solo.

Weiskopf’s technical mastery is off and running with both speed and precision on “Blues Combination,” inspired by John Coltrane’s “Locomotion.” Intrigued by Ray Charles’s take on the tune, Weiskopf grooves effortlessly on “Candy.”

“I’ve wanted to try this one for years and finally worked up my nerve,” Weiskopf said. “It was nice to have the beauty of Brian’s organ to lean on throughout this one. A quick, down and dirty vision in D minor. ‘Envisioned’ follows. I love hearing Behn bang those bars on the shout chorus. When Charette solos, you can almost see his fingers flying up and down the keyboard.”

Homesickness for the cloudy skies of Syracuse, NY, inspired “Invisible Sun,” which is followed by “Manny Boy.”

“Never would I have believed a year ago that I could feel so much love for a dog,” Weiskopf said. “A year ago, Marcie and I rescued Manny. He has shown me a whole new side of myself.”

Weiskopf et al serve up creative takes on Weather Report’s “Scarlett Woman,” and Charlie Parker’s “Segment,” before concluding with “The Way You Say It.”
“Segment, is the currently the Charlie Parker tune that I am most obsessed with and I hope Bird would’ve have understood my compulsion to modulate up a half-step,” he said. “I love Weather Report and ‘Scarlett Woman’ in particular. It turned out to be a great vehicle for Steve to showcase his grooviness.”

George Halas – SCENE

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Smooth Technique and a love of Melody is “Bright Side” by Doug Webb

mindset2From the very first, sweet strains of tenor saxophone that leap from my CD player, I know it’s Doug Webb. I’ve been listening to his style and enjoying the excitement he creates on stage for three decades. Webb has been featured on over 150 jazz recordings and has added his blues soaked style to tracks used in hundreds of television programs and movies. He’s an on-demand, Southern California, saxophone session man for television and film. This, his seventh album release, is funk-based with Manarelli on trumpet blending well with Webb’s saxophone licks. Webb has penned seven out of the twelve songs on this CD. His composition skills showcase smooth technique and a love of melody. The addition of Charette on organ spices things up and thickens the stew when Webb puts the pots on to boil. This is particularly obvious on cut #3, “The Drive”, where everyone of the musicians seem powered up and propel their improvisational skills at a fast clip. I found Webb’s composition, “Melody for Margie” to be beautiful, promoting a visceral emotion. Another of his compositions I enjoyed immensely is “One For Hank” where Cherry on guitar gers to stretch out, as well as Charette on organ. All in all, this CD swings and Webb is flying above the solid rhythm section, as daring as a man on a trapeze. His music is exciting.

Dee Dee McNeil – musicalmemoirs’s blog

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Midwest Record joins the “Allied Forces” by Steve Fidyk

mindset2Straight ahead swinging jazz powered by  a crew of leaders in their own rights, drummer Fidyk makes no statements here other than he can keep things on track from the back of the stage and that good are meant to be shared by all.  Not the kind of feel good jazz you’d associate with water front bars on summer nights but you have to call it that for lack of a better name, this is smoking stuff that works throughout and is the kind of friendly hard core jazz that brings new listeners into the tent despite themselves.  On the money throughout and totally hot.

Chris Spector – Midwest Record

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“Once & Future” by Brian Charette gets praised by Something Else

mindset2While unboxing guitarist Will Bernard’s delightful latest offering Out & About a few months ago, it was impossible not to rave on the key contributions of his combo’s organist Brian Charette. Charette has regularly put in stellar supporting roles whether it’s for Posi-Tone Records stablemates like Bernard or any jazz leader of note in need of some maximal Hammond B3.

Once & Future (Posi-Tone, June 3, 2016) doesn’t reach for such levels of risk-taking but it does offer the occasion of hearing Charette again trading licks with Bernard, only with the leader/sideman roles reversed. No horns this time as Charette’s group is reduced to the tried-and-true organ/guitar trio (Steve Fidyk brings the drums). As a noted educator of the B3 (he writes instructional books and articles, conducts masterclasses and teaches at workshops), Once & Future can be thought of as a ‘clinic’ record where he touches on many of the various techniques of the jazz organ as well as many shades of sub-styles, from Jimmy Smith to Larry Young. In keeping, only three of these fourteen tunes are his and many of the rest might be familiar to you. They may also titillate with Charette’s manner by which he carries these songs…

S. Victor Aaron – Something Else Reviews

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Dusted Magazine shows us the “Bright Side” by Doug Webb

mindset2The title of Doug Webb’s seventh Positone release sums up not only a personal outlook on his vocation, but the reality of it as well, given a career involving 30+ years as a professional musician. Bright Side teams the tenorist with some of the brightest of his immediate peers on the imprint with trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, organist Brian Charette and guitarist Ed Cherry each successful leaders in their own right. Drummer Steve Fidyk doesn’t have a session under his auspices yet, but his calendar as a sideman remains packed with cherry-picked gigs.

As with earlier Webb dates the program draws liberally from a songbook of originals while threading in a handful of covers including the bossa nova “Bahia” and Oliver Nelson’s hardbop workhorse “The Drive”. Webb is a specialist at devising tight punchy heads that pack sizeable ensemble wallops while working flexibly as spring boards for economy-minded solos. “Society Al”, a titular riff on a Dexter Gordon composition, features his horn initially in isolation before the band arrives to advance a rolling, organ-forward groove.

“Silver Lining” gives Charette the chance to show off his skill with building swirling, descending textures as Fidyk carves out a choppy beat beside him. Magnarelli sits out leaving Webb to ride the waves through a solo ripe with both velocity and spirited inflections. Credited to someone with the surname Eastlee, “Steak Sauce” shows off the quintet’s shared facility with a boogaloo rhythm. Charette’s bass lines ooze grease and the horns lock on some lean, but tasty unisons atop another porous series of patterns from Fidyk. Cherry leans back and concerns himself with comping inventively under the frontline extemporizations before moving stepping out for a supple say of his own.

“Melody for Margie” and “One for Hank” reference more important figures in Webb’s personal history, the first at a ballad tempo that capitalize on Charette and Cherry’s capabilities at shaping amorous support lines and Fidyk’s gentle facility with brushes. The second personifies in sound a saxophonist answering to the surname Mobley, at least in general feel, as Webb glides through a set of cerulean-hued changes and into another plush-voiced solo that ranges purposefully through his horn’s middle register. Charette and Cherry also get spotlights before a group exit and the album caps off with another groove workout in the accommodating guise of Webb’s  “Funky Medina”. With friends and continued opportunities like these it’s easy to see how he entertains his abiding optimism.

Derek Taylor  –  Dusted Magazine

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Something Else gives us a view of “The Way You Say It” by Walt Weisfopf

mindset2Walt Weiskopf wrote the book on jazz harmonics and improvisation…actually about ten of so books on those topics. But the best demonstration of his firm grasp on the building blocks for good jazz rests in his records, and his fifteenth one, The Way You Say It (April 8, 2016, Posi-Tone Records), is the latest chapter of his recorded book of work.

 

No matter how much Walt Weiskopf mixes things up for The Way You Say It, the craftsmanship shines through.

S. Victor Aaron – Something Else Reviews

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Saxophone Today reviews Walt Weiskopf’s “The Way You Say It”

mindset2Saxophonist and composer Walt Weiskopf has been a major contributor in the New York (which is to say, world-wide) jazz scene since the early 1980s. After completing studies at the prestigious Eastman School of Music, Weiskopf joined the Buddy Rich Big Band followed by a fourteen-year tenure with the Toshiko Akiyoshi big band. During his time with Akiyoshi and beyond, Weiskopf began recording his own albums playing almost exclusively original music with a variety of groups. Weiskkopf also began his long-running and current association with Steely Dan.

In addition, Weiskopf has become one of the most respected authors in jazz pedagogy starting with his first two books, Coltrane: A Players Guide to His Harmony and The Augmented Scale in Jazz (both co-authored with Ramon Ricker). Other books that followed include Intervalic Improvisation (1994), Around the Horn (2001), Beyond the Horn (co-authored with Ed Rosenberg)(2010) and Understanding the Diminished Scale (2012). Weiskopf has been on the faculty of the Eastman School of Music, Temple University and is currently Coordinator of Jazz Studies at New Jersey City University.
The Way marks Weiskopfs third CD as leader for Posi¬tone, besides at least another dozen for other labels, and represents a change in format, in that Weiskopf uses a modified organ trio as his vehicle of choice. The music, as is his custom, is almost all original, with the exception of three tunes.

To say that Weiskpopf is a master saxophonist is to overstate the obvious. Weiskopf has a clear, clean, centered sound, lickitey-split technique and personality to spare. That covers the “How To Play” side. On the “What to play” side, Weiskopfs melodic, harmonic and rhythmic acumen are massive. All of these attributes are eminently clear in the opening track, a medium-up-tempo blues, Coffee and Scones.

The quirky melody is played by unison tenor and vibes with Weiskopf taking the first solo. As mentioned before, Weiskopf has lots of personality in his playing, beginning with the fact that he plays with no vibrato at all and ends long pitches by just stopping the air, no taper at all. Both of these conditions contribute to his unique voice, but there’s more. Yet another factor are the notes and harmonies that Weiskopf uses. Each chorus that he plays finds him going down a different harmonic path, allowing him to keep the listener interested and on the edge of their seat all at once. Good solos by Gillece and Charette as well.

Inntoene, a barnburner taken at warp speed, is an example of good straight-a-head blowing. Tenor and vibes play the intricate melody once again, with Weiskopf taking the first solo, barreling down the highway, dropping one cleanly executed line after another like some many bombs over his shoulder.

The first of the tunes not written by Weiskopf is the now obscure Candy, by Alex Kramer (lyrics by Mack David & Joan Whitney). Performed as a ballad, for me, this is the money tune of the recording. Weiskopf plays the melody and goes right into his solo chorus paying homage to John Coltrane, with a touch of Jerry Bergonzi. His reading of the melody is just beautiful, and his solo is a study in “this is what a jazz player should be able to do with a tune,” playing it from every angle while still keeping all the music intact.

Segment, by Charlie Parker is another up-tempo gem, with Weiskopf and company just gliding through the changes and the changes of key with ease. Again, Weiskopf displays a complete understanding of harmony and the post-bebop language.Never at a loss for an idea, his lines just flow from one to the other. After a brief two-chorus romp from Weiskopf, Gillece plays his own well executed solo. Tenor and vibes trade eights, then fours for a chorus each before a shout chorus and the final reading of the melody.

The title tune, a prety ballad by the leader closes the CD. The melody is shared by tenor and vibes followed by short solos by Charette and Weiskopf. The mellow feel of the tune lets you down easy after the  action packed recording.

Walt Weiskopf is a power with which to be reckoned; if you are not familiar with his playing, this recording is a great place to start to get to know him.

Billy Kerr – Saxophone Today

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Midwest record is the first to look on the “Bright Side” by Doug Webb

mindset2This is a direct descendant of the kind of jazz record that took jazz from smoky, late night New York clubs to the rec rooms of then nascent suburban sprawl.  With a crew of leaders backing up the first call sax man, this is a perfect example of where jazz meets commercial vibes and coming out none the worse for wear.  Pure jazz for pure jazzbos, listening dates don’t come any Better than this.  Well done.

Midwest Record

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Downbeat understands the tradition of the Hammond B-3 as well its future with “Once & Future”

mindset2In every jazz lover’s mind there exists the perfect Hammond B-3 organ player. Whether that ultimate B-3 technician is Jimmy Smith, Charles Earland, Larry Young or Shirley Scott, certain defining parameters exist, regardless of the individual player.

But when it comes to Hammond B-3 mastery, Brian Charette wrote the book. Literally. His 101 Hammond B3 Tips (Hal Leonard) covers, among other topics, “funky scales and modes,” “creative chord voicings” and “cool drawbar settings.” Even more proof of his proficiency is heard on Once & Future, where Charette gives a master class in the many styles of B-3 playing, joined by guitarist Will Bernard and drummer Steve Fidyk.

Performing covers and original material, Charette’s B-3 touch is decidedly light, buoyant and playful. He brings his style to bear on hardcore grits ‘n’ gravy groovers by the acknowledged masters of the genre, as well as fare that puts me in mind of a cocktail party circa 1963. In that way, Once & Future acts as a calling card of sorts, a sampler of the many styles Charette and trio can bring to your next social function. Thankfully, there’s plenty of steam and smoke to balance the lighter punch bowl offerings.

The album kicks off with Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz,” delivered in groove-a-licious waltz-time goodness. Bubbly, swinging and steaming are apt descriptions here. The pace continues with Larry Young’s “Tyrone” (from 1965’s Into Somethin’), Bernard and Fidyk ramping up the temperature with able solos and fatback groove.

Charette’s sparkling “Latin From Manhattan” brings to mind Walter Wanderley as easily as it does Donald Fagen’s “Walk Between The Raindrops.” The trio knocks back Freddie Roach’s “Da Bug,” paints a dutiful rendition of “At Last” and stomps hard on Jack McDuff’s “Hot Barbeque.”

Other highlights include a beautiful, if jocular, version of Bud Powell’s “Dance Of The Infidels,” a note-perfect “Zoltan” as it appeared on Young’s 1966 masterpiece, Unity, and a cover of Wes Montgomery’s “Road Song.”

Both B-3 stylist and student, serious jazz scholar and glitzy entertainer, Charette is a burning soloist who understands the tradition of the Hammond B-3 as well its future—just as cerainly as he understands his place in that lineage.

Ken Micallef – Downbeat

 

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“Once & Future” by Brian Charette gets dusted

mindset2Dusted In Exile

Organ aficionados dismiss Brian Charette at their own disservice. With a Positone label contract in his pocket he’s stepped up his fecundity over the past year and turned out a string of albums that refuse to cow to critics that consider the instrument gauche or played out. Lesser hands accorded such liberal access to the avenues of album production would likely risk a tapering in quality to keep up. Charette’s kept his success record clean, balancing creative ideational execution with a conspicuous mindfulness aimed at fun.

The catalyst for Once & Future is at once unexpectedly self-referential and more broadly historical. At an earlier session Charette happened upon a copy of his own book 101 Hammond B3 Tips on the studio instrument and consequently started pondering the pantheon of players influential to his development. Fourteen pieces pay homage to these eclectic electric forefathers with three coming from Charette’s own design. Guitarist Will Bernard and drummer Steve Fidyk both show themselves game at exploring the guiding conceit of the date to the hilt.

The program starts orthodoxly enough with Fats Waller and the nascent organ inroad “Jitterbug Waltz” lathered here with a heaping helping of swollen, suspirating pedal sustain.  Initial predictability gets upended as Charette vaults to the other end of the stylistic organ spectrum with Larry Young’s “Tyrone”, juggling interlocking Latin and funk components while deferring to Bernard for first solo honors. Barely a quarter century separates the two compositions, but each is of seismic importance in measuring the evolution of the instrument’s importance in jazz.

Charette’s “Latin from Manhattan” intentionally matches the formidable kitsch quotient of its title with a syrupy string of fills and a light samba beat. Bernard and Fidyk recline into their roles amiably unperturbed by the lounge-scented surroundings. Freddie Roach’s “Da Bug” works over a rolling call-and-response boogaloo rhythm while Jack McDuff’s “Hot Barbecue”, a Harlem club staple from the Hammond Sixties heyday, gets its well-deserved due with declamatory titular band refrain intact.

Back-to-back burning renditions of Bud Powell’s “Dance of the Infidels” and Woody Shaw’s “Zoltan” signal another course change to more modern fare. Charette flips a switch and hits the angular, staggered theme of the former with a tumescent knife-edged tone that almost eclipses Bernard’s careful comping. The latter tune gives Fidyk the chance to share his press roll and cymbal accent expertise in tandem with the leader’s aggressive to nal swells and spirals. James Brown, Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery comprise the album’s compositional final stretch alongside a few more originals. Charette’s win column remains uncompromised throughout.

Derek Taylor – Dusted In Exile