Walt Weiskopf – The Way You Say It (2016)

Share this:

Walt 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.

The tenor sax ace who has been the reedman of choice for Steely Dan over the past fifteen or so years once again shows serious bonafides as a leader, composer and improviser on a record out a scant two years after thoroughly solid outing Overdrive. Like that record, Weiskopf trots out a fare of well-constructed originals along with a handful of interpretations of other composers tossed in. He also keeps on board one of the most talented up and coming vibes player in Behn Gillece.

But the quintet is reduced to a quartet, with otherwise-different musicians: Steve Fidyk on drums and Brian Charette on organ. The combination of his sax with Gillece’s vibraphone and Charette’s B3 makes for a somewhat uncommon group structure but far from weird. In fact, thanks to some smart and creative arrangements, it’s quite natural.

Take “Inntoene,” for starters, a quick tempo number. Here we find Weiskopf and Gillece swapping the melody and harmony components and then blurring the lines between the improv and sketched parts, all while Charette keeps it cool and low as his bass pedals supply the swing with Fidyk. The straightforward soul blues number “Coffee and Scones” didn’t necessarily need an organ, but Charette with coy comping and then a vigorous solo adds a certain punch and soulfulness that ends up being essential.

Blues also provides the foundation for “Blues Combination” but Weiskopf gets creative with both the rhythm and chord substitution and makes it more alluring than your basic twelve or sixteen bar blues. Not to mention his non-stop shredding on sax, and Gillece keeps the heat flowing when it’s his turn to solo. Every song explores a new demeanor and tempo, ranging from the impassioned bop of “Envisioned” down to the wistfully melodic slow groove of “The Way You Say it.”

As for other people’s songs, the one most provocative has gotta be “Scarlet Woman,” a spacious and lonely selection from 1974 Weather Report. Weiskopf & Co. bring the song back to an era of jazz roughly five years prior, even putting in the swing that was barely suggested at all in the original. Weiskopf also pays tribute to another hero Charlie Parker with the Parker tune “Segment,” and makes bopping over the changes sound easy (as does Gillece). A sentimental mood is captured just right by Weiskopf’s tenor for the Johnny Mercer hit “Candy,” but this rendition is inspired by Ray Charles’ own lush rendering of it.

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


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
Share this:
Close