Posted on

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


Posted on

AAJ track review for Brian Charette “Square One”…


Brian Charette: Square One (2014)



Brian Charette: Square One

Track review of “Aaight!” 

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but that can be a double edged sword with respect to self-expression and individuality. Reverence to past influences such as the pioneering organists Larry Young and Jimmy Smith is commonly heard in many contemporary jazz organ players including New York based Brian Charette who breathes originality in 2014’s The Question That Drives Us (SteepleChase) and particularly 2012’s Music for Organ Sextette(SteepleChase). Both feature that iconic Hammond B3 sound within a larger ensemble mashing up a progressive blend of jazz and chamber music influences.

But the trio setting is the standard by which jazz organists are measured and with Square One Charette teams with guitarist Yotam Silberstein and drummer Mark Ferber further proving why he was voted 2nd place in 2013’s Downbeat Critic’s poll for “Rising Star: Organ.” His technical facility of the instrument is immaculate while sporting an impressive tonal range with plenty of pizazz as captured in the opening track “Aaight!”

It’s an infectious piece dedicated to Charette’s fellow sextette member and saxophonistMike DiRubbo who would frequently utter the phrase “Aaight!” (Colloquial term for “All Right”) at the end of a gig on his way home. Charette delivers the funky hook while Ferber and Silberstein add rhythmic hot sauce to the bait resulting in what is effectively an old-school dance joint that will make you wanna get up and shake your groove thang.

It quickly settles into the pocket moving through unison lines then tight solo trades splashed with Silberstein’s Wes Montgomery-like chording and Charette’s skittering fingers working in-tandem with a purposed bass pedal. About midpoint through the piece Charette’s modulation travels from the barstool to the church pew with a gospel church organ sound that’s performed with fluid maneuverability and consummate touch.

Track Listing: Aaight!

Personnel: Brian Charette: organ; Yotam Silberstein: guitar; Mark Ferber: drums.


Posted on

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.


Posted on

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!


Posted on

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.



Posted on

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.


Posted on

Another AAJ review for Brian Charette…

Brian Charette - Square One





Classically trained pianist turned organist Brian Charette is an accomplished master of the Hammond B3 with an elegant yet passionate touch. His signature style imbues the many recordings of his various ensembles with a light, crisp sound and an effervescent melodicism that is, unapologetically, mainstream without being pedestrian. In 2014 Charette cut two charmingly seductive albums that delight and gratify without experimenting with innovation or breaking any radically new ground. 

On his second release of the year Square One on the Los Angeles based Posi-Tone label Charette showcases his virtuosity on his instrument in a sparse, and more traditional, setting accompanied only with guitar and drums. Charette leads his sidemen through nine of his compositions and one each by tenor saxophonistJoe Henderson and vocalist/keyboardist Art Neville.

The Henderson piece, made famous by organist Larry Young on his landmark Unity (Blue Note, 1966), is a showcase for drummer Mark Ferber‘s unfettered, stormy and exhilarating flights of fancy. Charette and guitarist Yotam Silberstein take turns dueting with Ferber and egging him on further.

Silberstein brings his loose, laidback yet simmering strings to center stage on the most eclectic of the CD, the psychedelic “People on Trains.” The intricately constructed motifs give way to Charette’s circular and otherworldly reverberations and his intelligent, impressionistic bars.

The trio builds a vivid shimmering ambience on the fusion-esque “Things You Don’t Mean.” Charette’s thick, expressive harmonies underlie Silberstein’s blistering, electrifying swells as the two take turns elegantly embellishing the melody.

Charette brings a churchy feel to the elegiac “Ten Bars for Eddie Harris.” This hard driving, viscerally moving and tender original accentuates Silberstein’s haunting guitar work and Charette’s own edgy but reserved extemporization. Ferber’s rumbling drums, over Charette’s gospel like chanting keys close the tune on an exalted mood.

Charette’s romantic side is on display on “Three for Martina,” a sweet (but not syrupy) paean to his girlfriend. His suave, sleek spontaneous expression flows with iridescence hues and contrast with Silberstein’s equally heartwarming yet denser strums.

The Question That Drives Us and Square One are intellectually attractive and aurally pleasant musical works. Charette maintains the compelling momentum, on both from start to finish. With his superlative musicianship and leadership skills he assures a uniformly high artistic quality on both disc even in the absence of anything ingeniously cutting edge or trailblazing.

Posted on

SomethingElse Reviews weighs in on Walt Weiskopf’s new CD “Overdrive”…

Walt Weiskopf - Overdrive cover






In his twenties during the 80s, sax ace Walt Weiskopf was already good enough to play for Buddy Rich, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Frank Sinatra, but he’s better known as being a member of Steely Dan’s touring band since 2003, and was prominent on that band’s last album, Everything Must Go. That’s him with the memorable aside that kicks off the title song, a Steely Dan saxophone moment the ranks alongside ones by Wayne Shorter, Phil Woods, Pete Christlieb and Chris Potter.

Weiskopf has been more than a valuable sideman, he’s been a composer and leader in his own right at least since his debut Simplicity in ’93, and he’s since produced a string of solid albums in the post-bop vein, including his last one, a live document we savored called Walt Weiskopf Quartet: Live.

Three years after that, Weiskopf is back with his 14th long player, his first for Posi-Tone Records that he calls Overdrive (out June 10, 2014).

If you know about Weiskopf and about Posi-Tone, you know that this is a match made in heaven. The label has a reputation for issuing jazz records of the crisp, melodic and swinging straight-ahead kind, and that’s this saxophonist’s specialty. Save for a lissome, waltzing cover of Michel Legrand’s ballad “What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?”, Overdrive it’s all sturdy, engaging Weiskopf compositions, full of well-considered updates on the classic bop form.


That means plenty of rapid, twisting and sharp heads played in unison, such as the ones that launch “Like Mike,” “Four Horsemen” and “No Biz” They’re typically followed by Weiskopf tearing off into solos that prowess, fragility and nuance, often in the proud tradition of both Rollins and Coltrane but with own chunky tone.

Weiskopf has good choices in who to pair up with on those unison runs. Guitarist Yotam Silberstein and the vastly underrated vibraphonist Behn Gillece do a great job in not only taking turns riding shotgun on those wild rides up and down scales but also push the leader with accomplished solos of their own, along with pianist Peter Zak. David Wong and Donald Edwards supply rock solid rhythm section support.

The post-bop formula is tweaked enough to accommodate some pleasant change ups like the swinging minor key blues number “Night Vision,” the four movement “Waltz For Dad” that features some unusual chord changes, and especially the title song. “Overdrive” has enough rich complexity in the intro alone to leave even his erstwhile employers Walter Becker and Donald Fagen impressed. The main body of song has a rock feel to it, mostly in its gait, but also found in the rough edges of Silberstein’ guitar solo.

Did I mention that Weiskopf is also an author? He’s written a half dozen books on advanced improvisation. But for demonstration purposes, it’s best to spin up one his records and Overdrive is a fine place to start.


Posted on

Midwest Record goes crazy for B3’s on Posi-Tone…

BRIAN CHARETTE/Square One: Been jonesing for some hard hitting jazz organ trio work that swings and doesn’t miss? This is the stuff where you can hear Larry Young as well as Jimmy Smith vibing in the background. Straight ahead but loaded with funk and grease, Charette pulls it together here quite masterfully setting the tone and setting the pace for a set that delivers more than the post office ever claimed to. Simply killer stuff that finds the sweet spot and fills the sweet tooth early and often. Hot stuff.

JARED GOLD/JG 3+ 3: There’s so many leaders on board here that the only reason you can be sure this is a Gold date is that his name is in the biggest type on the cover. Putting three horn players in with his regular trio, it must be an inside joke that he has seven players on this seventh set for the label. (Seven?!, where does the time go?) A perfect example of why you dug jazz organ groups in the first place, this swinging after hours set has it all on the ball and more. Everybody knows what to do and why they’re there to do it, and they do. Hot stuff that really sets some new standards.

Posted on

Dusted Magazine goes back to “Square One” with Brian Charette…

Organist Brian Charette gets back to basics on Square One with a return to the standard organ trio format of his first few records, albeit with a twist. Guitarist Yotam Silberstein and drummer Mark Ferber are along for the ride and totally aligned with his relatively straightforward designs for the session.

Eleven tracks comprise a program that would fit comfortably onto the temporal confines of an LP. That calculated brevity works to the trio’s advantage with none of the pieces showing signs of bloat or diffusiveness, although it’s quickly evident that most of them would work well as vehicles for extended jamming in a concert setting.

“Aiight” opens on an oleaginous groove with Charette flipping the flute switch on his console halfway through and going for a stuttering, hollow tone reminiscent of vintage Art Neville. The Meters feel is even more pervasive on a killer cover of “Ease Back” as Charette reclines on a string of signature licks and Silberstein and Ferber furnish a fertile funk rhythm at his flanks. A lively rendering of Joe Henderson’s “If” brings the organist’s affinity for Blue Note-era Larry Young into bold relief as he maps the tune’s slippery modal structure and loose comping from Silberstein segues smoothly into clean single notes for a solo.

“People on Trains” is the first of several pieces to include synth shadings around the edges, with varying degrees of success. “True Love” also proves slightly problematic as it mires in drowsy sentiment, but picks up near the end as Charette changes settings to a swelling church organ sound. Balancing out these near misses are the tracks that constitute the album’s second half, starting with the brisk, bop-inflected “Time Changes.” “A Fantasy” pivots on a steady march cadence by Ferber and swirling chromatics from Charette laced with electronic accents. Organ and guitar trace increasingly constrictive concentric circles culminating in a near-explosive finale.

Funk factors into “Yei Fei,” the sort tempered with strong fusion impulses – particularly in the simmering interludes for solos from Silberstein and Charette. Those inclinations find an even more receptive outlet through “Things You Don’t Mean” as the players dissect another spiraling groove seasoned by colorful, if intrusive, synth washes. “Ten Bars for Eddie Harris” salutes another kindred soul in the named saxophonist and signs the session off with a propulsive period of controlled chaos and a synth-buttressed finish.

Over the past several years, Charette’s surname has become increasingly synonymous with creative activity in a range of settings not common to his instrument, from solo to sextet and in between. While the inclusion of electronics is an acquired taste, this economical date is still an enjoyable reminder that he works with just as much fire in familiar surroundings, particularly when the company is of the quality on hand.