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A great review of the new one from Behn Gillece “Walk Of Fire”

Vibraphonist Behn Gillece has been a fixture on the New York jazz scene for the past decade, notably in his project with one of this era’s great tenor sax player/composers, Ken Fowser. Gillece also has a cooker of a new album, Walk Of Fire due out mid-month from Posi-Tone Records and a show coming up on August 5 at 10:30 PM at his Manhattan home base, Smalls. Cover is the usual $20.

This is the most straight-ahead, unselfconsciously infectious stuff that the prolific, often ambitiously eclectic Gillece has come up with since his days with Fowser. The title track, a terse, brisk swing shuffle, opens the album. Listen closely to pianist Adam Birnbaum’s judicious, rhythmic chord clusters and you may get the impression that the song was originally written for Rhodes. Or maybe that’s just what vibraphonists come up with. Trombonist Michael Dease contributes a leapfrogging solo, and then the high-powered frontline – also comprising trumpeter Bruce Harris and tenor player Walt Weiskopf – are out.

Fantasia Brasileira, true to its title, is an easygoing bossa that Dease takes to New Orleans before Gillece ripples gracefully through the horn section’s big raindrop splashes.. Moodily resonant horns rise over bassist Clovis Nicolas and drummer Jason Tiemann’s blithe, latin-tinged, fingersnapping stroll in Bag’s Mood, Harris taking a low-key turn in the spotlight before the bandleader raises the ante.

Likewise, Dauntless Journey follows a balmy, allusively chromatic tangent out of Gillece’s resonant intro, maintained by Weiskopf, with brief elevation from Dease before the vibraphone subtly alters the groove. Battering Ram gives Weiskopf a launching pad for Weiskopf’s Coltrane-channeling, Dease’s contrasting gruffness and Birnbaum’s precise, rippling attack over quick, punchy, syncopation,

Gillece and Birnbaum blend subtly intertwining lines and then shift into separate lanes in the moody Reflective Current, a quartet number. Something New follows a similarly pensive, waltzing tempo: the point where the vamping grey-sky horns drop out completely makes a tasty jolt to the ears.  Specter, a catchy, vamping clave number, features Gillece’s most expansive but purposeful solo in this set and a welcome, tantalizingly brief confrontation between vibes and piano.

Break Tune has a subtle juxtaposition of steady, emphatic swing and allusive melody, echoed by Weiskopf before Gillece goes vamping and Harris spirals triumphantly. Artful metric shifts and Gillece’s rippling staccato raise the vamps of the concluding tune, Celestial Tidings above the level of generic. Marc Free’s production is characteristically crisp: the lows on the concert grand piano cut through as much as every flick of the cymbals.

Lucid Culture

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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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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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New York City Jazz Record know it’s “The Way You Say It” by Walt Weiskopf

mindset2With over three-and-a-half decades in the New York jazz scene, beginning with Buddy Rich and Toshiko Akiyoshi, Walt Weiskopf is long established as a hard-blowing tenor saxophonist and creative composer. Accompanied by Charette, up-and-coming vibraphonist Behn Gillece and Steve Fidyk, most of The Way You Say It focuses on Weiskopf’s potent originals, starting with the percolating blues “Coffee and Scones”. The catchy unison theme of “Blues Combination” is negotiated with the confidence of a working band, Fidyk providing a strong undercurrent. Alex Kramer-Joan Whitney-Mack David’s “Candy” was long favored by soul jazz saxophonists and this understated interpretation pays homage to past greats, with sublime organ and soft brushwork supplying the perfect backdrop. There’s a change in direction with the dramatic setting of Weather Report’s “Scarlet Woman”, then an effortless galloping through Charlie Parker’s bop gem “Segment” before cooling off the listener with the lush title ballad.

New York City Jazz Record


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All About Jazz talks with Walt Weiskopf about his career, past and present

What is it that drives Walt Weiskopf? It’s all about the music, all about the sound.

He’s reached a large audience in ten years of touring with Steely Dan. He’s written a half dozen books on jazz improvisation techniques and methods, and he’s taught at the Eastman School of Music, Temple University and New Jersey City University, where he now heads the jazz program. We find the real key to his work, though, in the huge catalog of recordings as a leader, overwhelmingly featuring his own compositions and arrangements for aggregations that range from quartets to nine-piece ensembles.

Ask him what he tries to evoke with his writing, and he’s disarmingly forthright: his focus is on the musical expression itself—the melodic lines, the harmony and the rhythm, interwoven and all framing the improvisations of the group, with his own stellar tenor sax work sharing the spotlight pretty much equally with the other musicians. Going by the titles of some of his compositions, he’s clearly dedicated a few to his family and at least one to a musical influence (“Like Mike,” for Michael Brecker). And there’s even a full album, Sight to Sound (Criss Cross, 2003), where the professed aim is to tie the compositions with the work of great visual artists, from van Gough to Picasso. But you don’t have to press him hard before Weiskopf will admit that he concentrates almost exclusively on the sound alone.

His recordings have been widely reviewed in the jazz press, where Weiskopf has received a number of accolades for his work. C. Andrew Hovan in All About Jazz called him “easily one of the most mature and fully individualistic saxophonists and composers to come along in the last 10 years.” Bill Milkowski in Jazz Times dubbed him “a major talent… a monster tenor saxophonist as well as a prolific composer and accomplished arranger.” Zan Stewart in Downbeat echoed those comments, calling him “a consummate saxophonist, composer and arranger.” Bret Primack, now best known as YouTube’s “Jazz Video Guy,” once picked out a Weiskopf album as one of the ten best of the year. Other commentary by Hovan provides some notable observations: “Not to take anything away from other jazz saxophonists, but Weiskopf’s musical persona is the complete package. He has an identifiable sound, chops aplenty, great ideas and a strong emotional base that is often absent in other technically gifted players. . . . [He] not only sets a benchmark for jazz that functions within the tradition, but speaks with individuality and emotional attachment.”

The Way You Say It

His recorded output includes eleven albums as a leader for Criss Cross, the jazz label based in the Netherlands, and since 2013, he’s been recording for Posi-Tone Recordfs. His 2016 release, The Way You Say It, is his third for the label. The saxophonist’s last outing on Posi-Tone, Open Road, featured a traditional jazz quartet instrumentation, with Peter Zak on piano, Mike Karn on bass and Steve Fidyk on drums. His first recording on the label, Overdrive, added vibes and guitar. The titles of both albums relate to the setting for most of his work composing and arranging. “I do the lion’s share of it on the on the road. That’s when I have the time, and I’m free of distraction. It would definitely be an adjustment if I had to write the material for a whole record if I didn’t have that time to myself to do it. Otherwise, I never have any down time.”

Weiskopf credits Posi-Tone producer Mark Free with sparking the idea for forming the group featured on The Way You Say It. “We were trying to figure out what to do next,” says Weiskopf about his conversation with Free. “This recording, we knew, was going to be not more than five people and probably not less than four. I hadn’t done an organ record in a long time. And Mark was aware of that. So, we started with that concept.” The last recording Weiskopf led featuring organ dated way back to his second album on Criss Cross, A World Away (1993), featuring Larry Goldings along with Peter Bernstein on guitar and Bill Stewart on drums. For the organ spot on the new record, Free recommended Brian Charette, another accomplished Posi-Tone artist based in New York.

Weiskopf weighted in on fleshing out the rest of the group. “I love the idea of having two lead voices to work with. And I love the vibes. So, Mark said, ‘Well, what about Behn?'”—that is, Behn Gillece, who collaborated with Weiskopf on Overdrive. Weiskopf remembers, “I said, ‘Great!’ All I need is a parameter. Just start me off, and I’ll get to work.” Drummer Steve Fidyk rounds out a quartet for The Way You Say It, and, as it turns out, the instrumentation—sax, organ, vibes and drums—is an uncommon one in jazz. “I hadn’t thought about it until somebody else pointed it out, but, as a matter of fact, there’s only a couple of records with that same configuration,” says Weiskopf.

The focus for the compositions on the recording, according to Weiskopf, is “the way things sound—The Way You Say It. Mark had asked me to write an original ballad for this recording, and I got an idea for it from my wife’s speaking voice, which I love. That’s the title tune, “The Way You Say It,” which has a kind of a double meaning on the old adage, ‘it’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it,’ or, in jazz, ‘it’s not what you play but the way that you play it.'”

The album’s opener, “Coffee and Scones,” stands out in particular—a bright and highly infectious melody, likely destined for a fair amount of airplay on jazz radio. The title seems fitting, to the point that you might think it was the first line of lyrics, if there were any. But, actually, the title was partly producer Mark Free’s idea. Weiskopf’s real focus? Again, “I’m just trying to write good music.”

Other selections on the album include “Separation,” one of very few of Weiskopf’s compositions that he’s recorded more than once, and “Inntoene,” titled after the Austrian jazz festival where he’s played several times. All but three of the dozen tunes on the recording are original compositions. Among the non-originals, “Scarlet Woman” is an unusual choice; it’s credited to Alphonso Johnson, Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul and comes from Mysterious Traveler by Weather Report. Here, Weiskopf adapted an arrangement he used on trip to Europe, working with the German saxophonist Johannes Enders, among ofthers.

Taking the Lead Otherwise & Elsewhere

While much of Weiskopf’s output consists of studio recordings, a live date recorded in 2008 and released in 2011 is especially notable, Walt Weiskopf Quartet (Capri), featuring pianist Renee Rosnes, bassist Paul Gill and drummer Tony Reedus, recorded at the University of South Carolina. “I never intended that to be released. I was invited to play there, and Renee and I are old friends. I was lucky enough to get her and Tony Reedus on a record years ago called Anytown [Criss Cross, 1999], with Joe Locke, a star-studded record the likes of which will probably never happen again. And, so, Renee was available, and we took Paul Gill along, and I had been playing a lot with Tony Reedus at the time, whom I loved. And then, about six months afterward, Tony died. I think I was aware along the way that the concert was being recorded. They sent me the recording, just as a courtesy. It obviously wasn’t a studio recording. But the engineer, Jeff Francis, had worked with Sony and was a very experienced guy, and for a raw recording, it didn’t sound bad at all. Tony’s playing in particular was brilliant—absolutely brilliant. So, when I heard that he died, I decided I was going to try and do something with this. Jeff was terrific; we basically mixed for two days to put it together. I’m really glad we did it. The sound quality got some criticism, but it’s the music that matters.”

A standout studio recording deeper back into Weiskopf’s catalog is Man of Many Colors (Criss Cross, 2002), featuring pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Clarence Penn. The group came together partly through another visit that Weiskopf made to Europe, playing at the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague. He shared the stage there with Mehldau, somewhat serendipitously. The festival organizers gave Weiskopf his time slot, gave him a list of other musicians on the bill, and left it to him to find a quartet to play together. “Brad was going to be there, and I had been working with Rick Hollander, a terrific drummer from Detroit who was living in Munich, so it wasn’t too much trouble for him to come. And [bassist] James Genus was there also.” Criss Cross Records producer Gerry Teekens was very impressed with the resulting concert and set about putting a studio recording together featuring the saxophonist and pianist. “Of course, Brad is in a league of his own. So, I said, ‘Sure. You want to try and engage Brad, be my guest, absolutely.’ And so he did. John Patitucci had just moved to New York, and so he was around, and Clarence was available. I thought to myself, ‘Enjoy this while it lasts, because these guys are on a rocket ship to fame in the jazz world.’ And they were. It was great, great experience.”

Of his other recordings, Weiskopf is hard pressed to single others out. “I always say it’s kind of like your children. It’s hard to have a favorite.” He is especially grateful to Criss Cross producer Gerry Teekens to give him the opportunity to record leading larger ensembles, including two nonets (Siren [2000], Song for My Mother [1997]), one octet (Day In, Night Out [2008]) and two sextets (Simplicity [1992], Sleepless Nights [1998]). Over the course of conversation, talking about his musical influences, Weiskopf mentions another recording, one that’s actually outside of his own output: Renee Rosnes’s For the Moment (Blue Note), winner of Canada’s Juno Award for Best Jazz Album in 1992. Weiskopft doesn’t perform on the recording, but it features his composition “Thinking to Myself,” with the lead voice played by the great saxophonist and composer Joe Henderson, whom Weiskopf counts an important influence, especially in his compositions.

In the Vanguard and Steely Dan

Weiskopf’s long association with the iconic pop group Steely Dan and its leaders, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, started out with the band’s last recording, Everything Must Go, (Reprise, 2003). “I ended up on some horn section dates, and I think they might have been curious about me. For the title tune, they conceived of it as having—for a lack of a better description—a Coltrane-ish sax introduction. So we recorded that, I guess, in the fall of 2002. It never occurred to me that I would tour with them. That was kind of outside my whole arena of experience. I had never done anything like that before. Then in 2003, I got a phone call, in maybe January or February about the coming summer. Since then, I’ve done—it might be ten tours. It’s been great. I also was lucky enough to work with Donald on another project called the Dukes of September. We did a terrific concert for Great Performances, the PBS series, with the Dukes.” In addition to Fagen, the group included Michael MacDonald and Boz Scaggs, and the Great Performances concert was also released as a DVD (429 Records, 2014).

“I’ve learned a ton. I can’t even tell you. It’s nice that at the age of 43 I could start really as a kind of a nascent, blank slate with that kind of thing. I really didn’t know much about how to do it, how to play a solo in that context. It’s a unique pop band, in that they love jazz. They came up as jazz fans and jazz musicians. And to have four jazz horn players—might be the only band that ever had that. And in soloing with them, they’ve never said, ‘do this, that or the other.’ They let everyone find their way. It’s like a big band in many ways, but, of course, in a pop setting. I consider it a huge opportunity and a great challenge. I can’t say enough about it.”

In addition to Everything Must Go, Weiskopf also recorded with Fagen on his 2012 recording, Sunken Condos (Reprise). The saxophonist is struck by the contrast of making these albums and his experience with jazz recordings. “It’s entirely different. The way they grew up making records, they have the luxury of a lot of time. When we did the improvised solo on ‘Everything Must Go,’ I must have done 50 different takes, no exaggeration, over the course of two days. And from that they took what they wanted. Jazz musicians will put an entire album together in six hours. On a rare exception, they might have two days in a studio.”

Another ongoing association for Weiskopf is with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra—not as a member, but as a regular and frequent substitute in band for about the past twenty-five years. And he appears on their 2011 Grammy-nominated album, Forever Lasting: Live in Tokyo (Planet Arts), including a two-tenor sax feature with Orchestra regular Ralph Lalama on “You Tell Me,” a Jim McNeely composition. “It’s been a great opportunity,” says Weiskopf. “I feel a certain kinship. I know that music in a way that most musicians who are not in the band know it. They have been very loyal, even though I’m not often available. It was great to have the opportunity to go to Japan with them. It’s funny, it’s been one of my lifelong goals to be on a record with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, and lo and behold, that worked out. It was terrific.”

Rich Experience

Weiskopf’s old friend Lalama figures into the story of how he got his start as a professional musician, working with the Buddy Rich Big Band when he was 21 years old. “I moved to New York City in 1980,” he recalls, “and it was suggested to me by elders of mine back where I’m from in the Syracuse area that I should try and get on one of the major big bands. To me that seemed so insurmountable. But whenever Buddy’s band would come into the city, I would try and go, and introduce myself, the kind of thing that I’m horrible at doing and probably would never do now, but at the time I was just determined to do it. And within a few months, a couple of the guys heard me play at a jam session, and it was rumored that I might be in line. At that time I was playing alto sax. I didn’t even have a tenor. I went out and bought a tenor, because I had heard from Ralph Lalama that he might be leaving. So, I played my first professional engagement on tenor with Buddy Rich.”

At first, Weiskopf felt he was in over his head. “I really had next to no experience, certainly on that level. I had just enough, and I practiced, and I guess they saw enough potential in me. Initially, I didn’t have the right mouthpiece to blend with the sax section, and luckily, instead of discounting me out of hand, Andy Fusco, in particular, helped me along. He gave me a mouthpiece to play. I was lucky that I hung on.”

Through his work with Buddy Rich, Weiskopf got an opportunity to work with Frank Sinatra, when the singer teamed up with Rich’s band for a festival in the Dominican Republic in 1982 called Concert for the Americas, the opening event for the 5,000-seat Altos de Chavón Amphitheater. The performance by Sinatra and Rich’s band was eventually released on DVD (Shout Factory, 2010). A selection from West Side Story, “Prologue/Jet Song,” included an extended drum solo by the band leader, along with a strong solo feature by Weiskopf that very much belies his own self-effacing appraisal of his playing with the band.

He remembers the occasion very clearly. “That was a huge experience. If I had known how nervous I should have been—I mean, we were all nervous, we were not experienced in that kind of thing. But it was terrific. It’s all over YouTube now. You wouldn’t recognize me, but I’m there, and I’ll never forget it. It was about 100 degrees and humid, and I think Buddy—he might have almost bought the farm that night. Of course nobody knew, but he had horrible blockages in his heart and had surgery a couple years later.”

Weiskopf later toured as a member of Sinatra’s band. “I worked for him from 1990 to ’94, until he stopped working. And it was absolutely great, every single time. The band had many configurations. We did it with a string section several times, which was terrific. We did his final European tour without strings—a big band, plus guitar, tympani and French horn.” The band played all classic arrangements by Nelson Riddle, Billy May and others from the singer’s repertoire and was conducted by Frank Sinatra, Jr., and Weiskopf later worked with Frank Jr.’s own band on a number of occasions.

Playing Well with Others

Another important association for Weiskopf early in his career was with the Toshiko Akiyoshi / Lew Tabackin Big Band. “After the better part of two years with Buddy Rich,” he recalls, “I decided that I should come back to New York and try and stay there. I actually had an opportunity to go with Woody Herman‘s band, but I was about to get married or had just gotten married and decided that I would not do that, although it would have been nice to have that opportunity. I started making my way in New York, trying to go to jam sessions and play gigs.” It was then that the opportunity came up with Toshiko Akiyoshi and Lew Tabackin. “That was perfect. That started in 1983, and thing about it was you didn’t have to go on the road for months and months at a time. It was isolated tours, and we would play New York frequently. We played at a club called Lush Life on Mondays for a while, and then at Fat Tuesdays on Mondays, and the Village Gate on Mondays—all over the course of ten years, I guess. Altogether, I was with the band for 14 years. It was much easier to be a full-time member of that band, because we were only on the road for a few weeks a year. We went to Japan many times, but those tours were maybe three weeks at the outside.”

Working with fellow saxophonist Tabackin had a number of benefits for Weiskopf. “He was certainly an influence as far as my professional ethic. Stylistically, I wouldn’t say he was much of an influence, but he did teach me a lot about playing the tenor per se. He has just a huge sound. And I learned a lot listening to him blow the horn. He has a unique style.”

Other major benefits for Weiskopf from working in the band were the strong bonds he made with fellow the band members who spent long hours on buses together him—including several prominent jazz musicians of his generation, such as Billy Drummond, Conrad Herwig, Joe Magnarelli, Scott Robinson, Gary Smulyan and Jim Snidero. All have appeared on recordings led by Weiskopf, and he’s returned the favor for Drummond, Herwig and Snidero, in addition to collaborating with all of them on other projects. He counts Snidero as an especially close friend; he teamed up with the fellow saxophonist for online multimedia instructional projects, Jazz Improvisation Workshop I and Jazz Saxophone Workshop, produced by the Jazz Conception Company.

Another close collaborator for Weiskopf is his old associate from the Buddy Rich band, Andy Fusco. The two were co-leaders on one album, Tea for Two (Criss Cross, 2005), and they joined together for a tour and two recordings led by Steve Smith, the versatile drummer known for his long tenure with the rock band Journey, Steve Smith’s Jazz Legacy: Live on Tour, vol. 1 & 2 (Drum Legacy, 2012). “We had a ball doing that,” he says. Whereas Weiskopf emphasizes original compositions heavily for his own recordings, Smith’s band focused largely on jazz standards, giving listeners an opportunity to hear Weiskopf on such staples as “Airegin,” “Two Bass Hit,” “Moanin,'” and “Night in Tunisia.” (His concluding cadenza on the latter tune, on volume 2, is one notable highlight.)

Family Roots

The one individual musician with whom the saxophonist has the closest association is his younger brother, the pianist Joel Weiskopf, whose career has included work with Woody Herman, Stan Getz and Quincy Jones, and who himself has recorded five albums as a leader, including Where Angels Fear to Tread (Steeplechase, 2016). Joel appears on eight of Walt’s recordings and also serves together with him on the faculty at New Jersey City University. Rather than a sibling rivalry, the saxophonist describes their relationship as colleagues and co-conspirators, who made a lot of great music together. The last recording the two worked on together was Tea for Two in 2005. “It’s always great with Joel. We kind of realized, though, that we maybe had to branch out and play with different people, which we have done. But we still work together, and I’m sure we will again.”

The two have also worked together as composers, writing a four-movement piece in honor of their father for his 80th birthday. “Waltz for Dad,” from that collaboration, appears on the saxophonist’s 2013 recording, Overdrive. Their father, a full-time physician and part-time pianist, provided a very musical environment for the brothers growing up in DeWitt, in central New York State, outside of Syracuse. (They moved there from Augusta, Georgia, where Walt was born.) “He was always a fairly high-level pianist. We grew up hearing beautiful piano music in the home. He played Chopin, Liszt and Brahms, you name it. He still plays today. Ironically, he never played any jazz at all.”

The mother in the family had a role in introducing young Walt to jazz, although very indirectly. “I had the idea from a young age that I wanted to play jazz, but I didn’t really know what it was. I asked my mom to bring home some jazz records from the library. She came back with an Al Hirt record. I listened to it, but that wasn’t what I had in mind. There was another record she brought home with one, though, a terrific record that I listened to a million times.”

The album was David and Lisa: Original Soundtrack and Jazz Impressions (Mainstream, 1965). “The A side was the original soundtrack, and then the B side was ‘Jazz Impressions of David and Lisa’ by Victor Feldman. Later on, of course, I learned that Victor Feldman was with Miles Davis, and, obviously, we know the iconic tune he wrote, ‘Seven Steps to Heaven.’ On that recording with Miles there’s a solo he plays on ‘Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home,’ which I absolutely love. He was a huge influence on me, and an early influence.”

Another Miles Davis work was a further point of entry to jazz for Weiskopf. “My Funny Valentine was one of the first records that I bought on my own. I was maybe 14 or even younger. I thought that all jazz was big band music. When I bought that record, I assumed that it was a big band recording, too. And when I listened to it, I didn’t get it at all, but I kept listening to it. That’s obviously a huge influence, and still is. Years before I had any idea what it was I was listening to, I loved that music.”

After his early exposure to jazz through recordings, Weiskopf thrived as a musician under the tutelage of an inspiring high school band director, Ron Nuzzo, and he had some early opportunities to play jazz locally at Casa di Lisa in Syracuse.

Getting Schooled/By the Book

Weiskopf didn’t venture far from home for college; he attended the Eastman School of Music, in Rochester. He finished his bachelor’s degree there in just three years. Not one to boast about himself at all, Weiskopf quickly sets aside the idea that his speedy finish reflects any special ability on his part. “I felt that I had gone as far as I could go, and I looked at the requirements and realized that if I just doubled up on the academic courses in final year, I’d have enough credits to graduate. I had a lot of elective credits in jazz, but I was a legit major; there was no jazz major. And it was kind of a money issue. I was going to have to go into debt if I stayed for the fourth year. I figured, why do that if I can finish? I felt it was time for me to move on if I could. So I kind of did two years in one. Afterwards, they made a rule, of course, that you couldn’t do that anymore.” Much later, Weiskopf returned to school to earn a master’s in clarinet performance at Queens College of the City University of New York, studying with one of the fathers of clarinet pedagogy, Leon Russianoff, and this led to performances on the instrument with the American Ballet Theatre and the American Composers Orchestra, among other ensembles.

Weiskopf collaborated with one of his Eastman professors, Ramon Ricker, co-authoring Coltrane: A Player’s Guide to His Harmony, the first of several books by Weiskopf published by Jamey Aebersold. Here again, Weiskopf is very modest about his work. “I really didn’t have any kind of aspirations to write a book, but when I was practicing those Coltrane chord changes and trying to understand what his process was, I began to write stuff down. Ray Ricker was really generous with his time, and we partnered on another book after that”—The Augmented Scale in Jazz.

Weiskopf’s books—which have been hailed by jazz masters such as James Moody and Michael Brecker—have developed out of his own personal study. “In each case, I was codifying what I was practicing at the time. Somebody once suggested to me that you could practice triads over a particular chord change, so with that idea, I began to think, where I could take this and how could I organize this? So that turned into my book, Intervallic Improvisation. And I found that to be especially useful in teaching students and explaining to them what exactly bebop is. If they understand what a major scale is, you can explain to them that triads are extracted from scales, and if you understand which scale goes with which chord change, you can play material over a tune that sounds less linear than just playing a scale.

“For Around the Horn, again, I heard somebody say something that rang a bell for me. A friend was talking about modulating each mode of the scale, and it made me remember being at a jam session a long time ago, when I first moved to New York, looking at a chart and seeing a major seven—sharp five chord and realizing I really didn’t know what that was. And I was embarrassed to ask anybody. Years later, I understood finally, that’s the third mode of the melodic minor scale. A lot of times when you teach things, it keeps you honest. You really have to understand them in a way that you hadn’t previously understood them, or that you just blew off or glossed over. I began writing things down, taking them to the nth degree. So that, again, is just what I was practicing at the time; I began to organize it and write it down.”

On the Jersey Side of the Hudson

Weiskopf has been Coordinator of Jazz Studies at New Jersey City University (NJCU) since 2014, taking over the reins from Ed Joffe, who retired then after directing the program since 1992. Located in Jersey City, N.J., across the Hudson River from New York City, the school offers both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in jazz performance. Recent graduates include trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, who has performed with Christian McBride, Alicia Keys, the Count Basie Orchestra and many others. Another notable alumnus, Richard DeRosa , is director of jazz composition and arranging at the University of North Texas. NJCU faculty member and trumpet instructor Nathan Eklund completed his master’s at the school; he has recorded with Phil Woods, Richie Cole, Spyro Gyra and others, in addition to performing with several New York big bands. Another trumpeter, Vinnie Cutro, a much earlier NJCU alumnus, went on to join Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton and Horace Silver. Other NJCU alumni have worked with a long list major jazz names, including Ray Charles, Jimmy Heath, Maynard Ferguson, Roy Hargrove, Marian McPartland, Claudio Roditi and Nancy Wilson. Over the years, the program has brought in many prominent guest artists to perform with and give master classes for student ensembles, including Benny Golson, Charles McPherson, Joe Locke, Steve Davis and Bob Mintzer. An NJCU alumni band, led by faculty member Richard Lowenthal, has been performing together annually since 2013 at Jersey City’s Exchange Place Pier. Their 2015 concert paid tribute to Clark Terry, who did a New Jersey concert tour with the school’s band in the late ’70s, and featured Wynton Marsalis as guest soloist.

Before heading up the jazz program at NJCU, Weiskopf taught saxophone and jazz improvisation at the school, from about 1994 to 2000, as he recalls. One especially vivid memory for him is his performance at the school with guest artist Michael Brecker, who is one of his major influences as an improviser. “I’ve probably told this story a million times,” he says. “Bob Mover was on the faculty at the time then, too, and he and Mike and I played a tune together. Mike took a solo on ‘Tenor Madness,’ and he really schooled me on that. It was the kind of thing you have to hear face to face. It taught me a lot. Later, on one of his records, he mentioned me as an influence, and I was really flattered. I never knew him well, but I felt a real kinship with him.”

Weiskopf is enjoying his return to NJCU. “The best thing about it artistically speaking is that I’ve never had a chance to direct a big band before, and it’s really fun. The closest I’ve come is being a guest soloist with other school big bands over the years. And I did that recently, too, with the Airmen of Note, one of the best bands anywhere, a great opportunity. But I’ve never worked with student big bands long-term. We do four concerts a year, and it’s terrific. I really enjoy working with the students and trying to give back a little bit, giving them the benefit of my experience. It’s a lot of fun.” A February 2016 concert by the band featured several pieces by one of Weiskopf’s European jazz contacts, the German bassist, composer and arranger Thomas Stabenow, which were recorded for a 2015 album by the NDR Big Band. Featured performers in the NJCU band included, among others, graduate students Diego Ferriera on tenor saxophone and Nathan Bohatch on vibes.

For Weiskopf, original compositions and arrangements are very important facets of jazz. “I tell students, part of your job as a jazz musician is to write your own material. I honestly believe that, by and large, the success of the musicians we look up to stems from creating their own original material. Even if they didn’t focus on original compositions, they certainly arranged what they played in a particular way. Joe Henderson is a perfect example of a guy who wrote great material for himself. He didn’t write those tunes for anybody else particularly. He wrote them for himself to play. And they stand the test of time. They work when other people play them because they almost have to see them through his eyes.”

Weiskopf describes the jazz program at NJCU as rigorous. “It’s very intensive. Basically, you’re playing all the time. As an undergraduate there are four semesters of jazz improvisation. There are two semesters of jazz arranging and two semesters of jazz history. As a graduate, it’s the same kind of thing—two semesters of jazz history on the graduate level, and you have to write a little more than you do as an undergraduate for the arranging requirements. But it’s heavy playing. You have to play a recital as a junior and a senior on the undergraduate level. It’s not for anybody who’s not interested in doing a lot of playing. Of course, you’ve got to have a certain kind of mentality to be so captivated and compelled to take it to that degree and really get in there and study and play at that level. But there’s something about this music that does that to us. I feel fortunate to be amongst people of like mind who love it as much as I do and really want it. And to the extent that I can, I help them get there. Of course, everyone has to do it on their own. But I know from going through the process myself that talent can only take you so far. You have to be determined. You have to be perseverant and persistent, and organize yourself, and be tenacious. And you can get there.”

It never ends, though. “I’m still trying to get there, myself. Still trying to get better and better.”

In Weiskopf’s drive for improvement and perfection, he draws from the many mentors and influences of his own, always emphasizing preparation and hard work. “I am a firm believer in organizing as much as I can. I’ve done record dates for other people where they just bring in penciled lead sheets in concert key. I would never think to do that. I want people to be as comfortable as they can possibly be. I write out pretty much everything that I want played, even in a small group setting —background lines, ensemble choruses, whatever it is. And I’m gratified when I hear it back. If it’s fun for me to listen to, then I got to believe other people are getting something out of it too. Because maybe it’s just a little bit different. It’s not just improvised chorus after chorus after chorus. There are very few people who can sustain that—where their playing is distinctive enough or at such a high level that it keeps the audience interested. It’s got to be about the composition and the arranging and the treatment, all together with the improvisation, all part of the same fabric.”

In other words, it’s all about the music, all about the sound.

By Bob Kenselaar for All About Jazz

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Dusted In Exile reviews the new one from Walt Weiskopf

mindset2Calling Coltrane an influence is an exercise in stating the obvious for most saxophonists under the age of sixty. The undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the horn still exerts a seismic impact so vast as to be nearly indelible. Tenorist Walt Weiskopf is one of the multitude who came under the Coltrane thrall early in his artistic inquiry, but like the best of that number he’s been able to wrestle inspiration into submission in the service of a sound he can accurately call his own. The Way You Say It registers as his sixteenth effort as a leader and it’s the first to feature him with the singular instrumentation of organ, vibraphone and drums.

Nine out of the dozen tunes originate from Weiskopf’s imagination with three carefully chosen covers covering the diverse stylistic bases of Forties Pop (“Candy”), Bird (“Segment”) and Weather Report (“Scarlet Woman”). The originals are as eclectic as they are numerous, making the most of Weiskopf’s sideman choices particularly in the pick of organist Brian Charette who applies a modernist sensibility to the instrument right in line with past greats like John Patton and Larry Young. Vibraphonist Behn Gillece draws from a comparable lineage in echoing the advancements of Bobby Hutcherson and Khan Jamal. Drummer Steve Fidyk takes readily to the demands of sustaining a rhythmic fulcrum for Weiskopf’s shifting frameworks.

“Coffee and Scones” acts as fortifying opener for the foursome with first leader and then Gillece and Charette riffing on a bustling soul bop motif. The organist’s pedal bass line is especially effective in advancing a groove alongside Fidyk’s steady snare accents. “Separation” slows the action down to a smoldering ballad tempo with both organ and vibes opening up tonally in response as the leader raises sail on the theme and later turns in a flexing, propulsive solo for contrast.  “Innotene” and “Blues Combustion” table contrast for straight up incandescence igniting on fleet tempi and tight, dime-turning contours. Weiskopf keeps all but one of the cuts in the under-five-minute range ensuring that none wear out welcome through overelaboration. Points earned for originality in both design and execution, Weiskopf and crew have come up with vibrant and viable alternative to the all-too-common organ combo longueurs.

Derek Taylor

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Thanks to All About Jazz for the great review of “The Way You Say It” by Walt Weiskopf

mindset2Do jazz jukeboxes exist? I’m not referring to an online streaming service that tells you what to like. I’m talking about a mechanical box in a roadhouse you put money in, and everyone in the joint listens to your selections. If there are such establishments with said jukeboxes, I’m certain customers would select WW1, WW2, WW3, et cetera, for most of the tracks on Walt Weiskopf‘s The Way You Say It.

The saxophonist a veteran of the big bands of Buddy Rich and Toshiko Akiyoshi, plus a requested sideman with Steely Dan, has produced a dozen outings as a leader, first for Criss Cross, and three now for Positone Records. The latest follows Open Road (2015), a quartet and the sextet Overdrive (2014) both with pianist Peter Zak. With The Way You Say It, he swaps piano for the organ of Brian Charette, an instrument we haven’t heard with the saxophonist since A World Away (Criss Cross, 1995).

Charette, the de facto house organist for Positone, comports himself quite well here, supporting Weisskopf and vibraphonist Behn Gillece, who we heard on Overdrive. With drummer Steve Fidyk, the quartet can negotiate a speedy burner like “Inntoene” and “Blues Combination” with jaw-dropping ease. Weiskopf has all the tools, a broad and deep sound with a very well balanced attack. In other words, a beautiful tone. That richness is showcased on the flavor-rich ballad “Candy” and “Invisible Sun.” Weiskopf penned ten of the twelve pieces here. “Envisioned” allows for each musician to stretch out a bit as it burns with a hot blue flame.

The quartet picks through two contrasting covers, Charlie Parker‘s “Segment” and the Weather Report classic “Scarlet Woman.” The quartet turns Joe Zawinul‘s fusion into a stormy blues romp with Bird’s music sailing with a nonchalance befitting such a sprezzatura artist as Weiskopf.

All About Jazz – Marc Corrotto

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Dusted in Exile reviews the new Walt Weiskopf CD….

Walt Weiskopf - Open Road cover





Times have long been tough for the Coltrane and Rollins-smitten tenorist. First there exists the sheer volume of peers to contend with, each jockeying for a share of a dwindling listenership that can easily eschew their facsimile sounds for the source. Then there’s the challenge of adapting the masters’ vocabularies in a manner that doesn’t come off slavish or overly-derivative. With the deck stacked in such a way, it’s a wonder more don’t hang up their horns and opt for more uniformly lucrative or laudatory endeavors. In Walt Weiskopf’s case, as with a select few others, there’s really no alternative at all. It’s a calling that can’t be denied or subsumed, best dealt with by keeping as busy as possible in forwarding one’s art no matter what criticisms arrive in opposition.

Open Road works as a clever visual analogy for the sort of mind set needed to consistently circumvent the strictures of the circumstances described. Weiskopf’s been at it professionally for well over three decades, composing, gigging relentlessly as a sideman and leader, cutting records, teaching, publishing and accruing accolades and awards along the way. Seventeen albums later and Weiskopf’s staying power is beyond reproach. Facets of Coltrane and Rollins reside audibly within an instrumental argot that is clearly indebted to the giants, but never fawningly rote.

The twelve pieces here combine to just shy of an hour and the relative brevity of each ensures that the band regularly breaks a sweat via variety and tempo variation. Premonition” starts off as a textbook postbop obstacle course, but pianist Peter Zak and bassist Mike Karn drop out two thirds into the piece leaving the leader and drummer Steve Fidyk to plow ahead at a propulsive clip. “Let’s Spend the Day Together” has something of a Horace Silver cast about it in the dancing Latin rhythm undergirding Weiskopf’s lead and the effervescent comping of Zak. The title track presses the collective accelerator, prompting Weiskopf to cruise expressively through a set of resilient changes with Zak’s space-savvy attack leaving him plenty of room to move.

A rare departure from the Weiskopf pen, “Nancy (with the Laughing Face)” evinces the same playful bait and switch as the opener with tenor and piano relating the wistful theme, before the latter drops out and Karn steps up to offer the leader elastic support in his stead for a fleeting exchange. The driving “Gates of Madrid” carries the poignant urgency of a Sixties Joe Henderson or Booker Ervin number as Weiskopf invests his tone with a keening cry and Zak comps darkly at his side. Karn is more felt than heard, working with Fidyk to dial up the tension as Weiskopf ranges emotively to a tumult-stamped close. “Chronology” and “Electroshock” each contain a brisk assembly of sharp-edged, puzzle piece structures steeped in constructive colloquy. In pacing, placement and summary outcome the album works in the best episodic sense.

Derek Taylor



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Doug Webb “Triple Play” review by David Orthmann…




As tempting as it is to simply consign a blowing session label toTriple Play, a three tenor saxophone plus rhythm date led byDoug Webb, there’s ample evidence that something more disciplined and structured is afoot. For one thing, eight of the disc’s eleven tracks are under six minutes—in other words, there’s not a lot of room for indulgence, excess, or one-upmanship of any kind. The material, including striking originals by the leader,Walt Weiskopf, and Joel Frahm, as well as assorted standards such as “Avalon,” “Giant Steps,” and “I Concentrate On You,” is often tendered by the horns like a reed section of a big band, carefully blended and precisely executed. Randy Aldcroft, who doesn’t appear on the record, is credited with the arrangements of three selections.

Organist Brian Charette serves as the session’s ballast, holding things in place with smart, pulsating work on the bass pedals, beautifully shaded and nuanced comping, as well as tweaking soloists with the occasional brash chord. Rudy Royston‘s drums and cymbals constitute the session’s wild card. He offers a busy, sometimes manic commentary, moving in and out of the pocket at will, punching holes in the music with his bass and snare drums, playing stretches of comparatively straight time, as well as tapping out jumbles of strokes.

Webb, Weiskopf, and Frahm are middle-aged veterans of the struggles and triumphs of jazz performance, far too accomplished and certain of their abilities to participate in some sort of spurious tenor battle; thankfully, the record’s end result is a wealth of inspired, highly focused improvisations. The three tenors—each in his own manner—play with a ruthless efficiency, making complete, rousing statements, usually in just a handful of choruses, on selections mostly taken at middling to up tempos.

Webb possesses an exemplary ability to navigate various tempos and find fresh perspectives on material that would induce a litany of clichés in a lesser player. Undaunted by the dizzying pace of “Avalon,” his ideas cohere without a trace of athleticism or strain. A three-chorus turn on Lou Donaldson‘s soul-jazz tune “Alligator Boogaloo” includes relaxed, neatly sculpted phrases as well as the requisite blues and R & B effusions. Throughout “I Concentrate On You,” amidst Charette’s and Royston’s firm support, he swings in a way that evinces a momentum of its own. During the first chorus of his composition “Jones,” Webb makes an art of stopping short, that is cutting off ideas before an easily anticipated conclusion, and then offering something else, without any hint of disengagement or loss of continuity.

It’s easy to become preoccupied with Weiskopf’s tone, a dense, vibrating, all-encompassing, blues-fused concoction, at the expense of taking notice of the ways in which he organizes ideas in the service of sustaining momentum. On his composition “Three’s A Crowd” and Webb’s “Triple Play,” he displays a flair for brief, dramatic entrances—such as slamming home one note and extending it, or making a handful of notes sound like a buzz saw, immediately following with an impassioned, metallic cry—and then rapidly getting down to the business of building a cogent, emotionally compelling improvisation. The second chorus on “The Way Things Are,” another one of his compositions, includes some of Weiskopf’s most stunning work on the record. His lines are taut, tightly connected, and for the most part etched into the hum and rumble of Charette’s bass line. When he pauses, or briefly spins out a flurry of notes that fly against the beat before snapping back to attention, the effect is like an edifice being ripped apart and immediately—miraculously—put back into place.

Each of Frahm’s solos is something of an adventure, as he manipulates his tone, juggles contrasting rhythms, intentionally rushes or drags time, changes temperament from cool to hot, and flashes a number of ideas in relatively short periods. His “Jones” improvisation gradually comes into focus. Frahm lays back for much of the first chorus, playing a little behind the beat and leaving some room between selected phrases. The last eight bars signal a change as his tone assumes a ragged edge. The second chorus begins with the insistent pecking of a number of staccato notes, which he rapidly wrestles into a nifty phrase. Eventually his sound thickens and he integrates squeaks, burr tones, and screams. During “Your Place Or Mine” Frahm evokes jazz of the swing era for about a half chorus in terms of vocabulary and rhythmic nuisances before metamorphosing to the present day. Throughout “Triple Play” he creates tension by playing slightly ahead of the beat, and sprinkles at least three song quotes into the solo’s second chorus.

Not unlike Swing Shift, Webb’s memorable 2012 release on Posi-Tone, Triple Play contains the present centered vibe of the last set of a club date, when the musicians are open to all possibilities, expressing themselves without inhibitions and, for an hour or so, the sounds are strong enough to keep the outside world at bay.

Track Listing: Jones; Three’s A Crowd; Giant Steps; The Way Things Are; Avalon; Jazz Car; Your Place Or Mine; I Concentrate On You; Pail Blues; Alligator Boogaloo; Triple Play.

Personnel: Doug Webb: tenor sax; Walt Weiskopf: tenor sax; Joel Frahm: tenor sax; Brian Charette: organ; Rudy Royston: drums.