If ever there was an apropos name for recording, “Overdrive” is the one. The brand new CD by saxophonist/composer Walt Weiskopf, his debut on Posi-Tone, is powered by the rhythm section of Donald Edwards(drums), David Wong (bass) and Peter Zak (piano). The leader, who sticks to tenor sax for this date, also utilizes the talents of Yotam Silberstein (guitar) and label mate Behn Gillece(vibraphone).
The program powers out of the gate with the first of 9 original compositions, “The Path Is Narrow.” The saxophonist heads straight to hard-bop territory but, to his credit, all the songs have solid melody lines. His insistent attack, powerful tone and forceful solos stand out on pieces such as “Like Mike” (the lightning fast melody line will pin you to the chair), the title track (where Edwards’ cymbals set a torrid pace) and “No Biz” (where Weiskopf delivers a Coltrane-esque solo and Silberstein channels Charlie Christian). The blend of Gillece’s vibes with the guitar, sax and piano on “Night Vision” stands out – the mix is so clear each instrument stands out.
The program includes several lovely ballads. “Jewel And A Flower” opens with a lovely melody and is notable for the harmony created by Zak’s left hand and the bass. The vibes serve to color the melody and frees Wong to create counterpoint to the sax. The blend of guitar and saxophone on the theme of “Waltz For Dad” fills out the sound, leaving both the piano and vibes to create the sumptuous background. The one non-orginal track, Michel LeGrand’s “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life“, a piece one might expect to hear as a ballad, is taken at a a medium tempo, giving the song a lighter feel.
Walt Weiskopf released 9 CDs for Gerry Teekens’ Criss Cross label (10, if you also count the season he co-led with saxophonist And Fusco), recordings that featured ensembles of various sizes, especially the 2 nonet albums. “Overdrive” displays his craftsmanship as both a musician and composer (his compositions all have very good melodies). This is good music to play with the windows open, bright and appealing. For more information, go to www.waltweiskopf.com.
“Standard Deviation“, the 5th Posi-Tone release for tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen, is another recording that lives up to its name. The program is comprised of all standards, an approach that Bowen has yet to attempt in his discography. However, the saxophonist does not deviate from his style; he’s a powerful player with a full sound yet always keeps melody foremost in his music. Joining him in this venture is Donald Edwards (drums) and Kenny Davis (bass) – the rhythm section from 2011’s “Power Play” release – plus pianist Bill O’Connell.
The quartet has fun with these pieces, some of which are considered “evergreens.” The program opens with Richard Rodgers’ “Isn’t It Romantic” (originally performed by Jeanette MacDonald in the 1932 movie “Love Me Tonight”). The rhythm section pushes the tempo up while both Bowen and O’Connell swing the heck out of the piece, the former adding real muscle to his sound. Jerome Kern composed “Yesterdays” for the 1933 film “Roberta”. Here, the pianist’s arrangement adds a Latin feel and lets Bowen loose over the energetic drumming (Edwards’ ability to “drive” an ensemble has been well documented over the past few years, from his work with pianist Orrin Evans to the Mingus Big Band.)
One of the other better-known piece on the CD is “You Don’t Know What Love Is“, composed by Gene de Paul (music) and Don Raye (lyrics), was originally composed for a movie starring Abbott & Costello (!) but was eventually pulled. The movie studio, Universal, then placed the song in one its lesser productions (starring The Ritz Brothers). The movie is long forgotten but the song as been recorded by countless pop and jazz artists. Bowen and company play the song as a smoky ballad, with a most passionate reading by the leader.
O’Connell’s left hand joins with the bass of Davis to underpin the latin-inspired rhythms of Cole Porter’s “Dream Dancing“, the track with the longest and arguably, best tenor solo on the CD and that follows a wonderful solo by the pianist. Davis creates a furious walking line on the final track, “By Myself“, serving as a launching pad for a fiery tenor solo and rollicking work from Edwards.
“Standard Deviation” is anything but standard or deviant. What it is is good music, fine playing and a pleasure to listen to. For more information, go to www.ralphbowen.com or www.posi-tone.com/deviation/deviation.html.