Walt Weiskopf – Fountain Of Youth (2017)

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feature photo: Anna Yatskevich

Between composing, recording, writing books on jazz saxophone instruction and touring with Steely Dan, Walt Weiskopf juggles a lot of balls in the air but never seems to drop any. Not even in the dates he leads roughly every year. The title of his sixteenth one, Fountain Of Youth (now out via Posi-Tone Records) could just as well be referencing the youthful energy this jazz multitasker must have to pull it all off without missing a beat.

We’ve liked past Weiskopf output, but the certain appeal of this one lies primarily in the tweaking of his personnel (again). He’s keeping rising vibes star Behn Gillece and drumming ace Steve Fidyk, brings back pianist Peter Zak and puts Mike Karn in the bass chair previously vacated when organist Brian Charette handled the low end with his foot pedals. All that makes Fountain Of Youth a sort of return to a layout that’s closer to conventional but the musicianship, arrangements and Weiskopf’s compositions are far from run-of-the-mill.

Weiskopf is truly one of the savviest saxophonists around today. His technique and feel are both off the charts, and those are aspects that become especially noticed when a blues like “Backstage Blues” is played and here his big chops are in much in evidence. But everyone else is cooking, too: Gillece and Zak undertake short but sweet asides of their own and the rhythm section is loose and in the pocket.

“Loose Lips” is an up-tempo number that’s percolates to perfections thanks to a taut rhythm section; Weiskopf throws out a lot of notes and makes every one of them count. “Heads In The Clouds” is a waltz where strong comping from everyone from Fidyk to Gillece take Weiskopf’s leads to the next level. “Double Date” is crisp, dynamic bop number contributed by Gillece but a natural fit for Weiskopf’s style and sinuous unison lines involving both him and the composer.

The standards provide an occasion to demonstrate Weiskopf’s abilities as both an arranger and interpreter, and his band is likewise up to the challenge. This ensemble’s treatment of Johnny Mandel’s jazz standard “Close Enough For Love” is how mid-tempo swing is done, and Zak’s rhythmic drive on his piano solo is a lost art. Weiskopf’s buttery tone is put to good use on this elegant take on the old Broadway tune “How Are Things In Glocca Morra.” The David Raskin standard “Laura” is treated with more energy than most renditions, with sly, subtle rhythmic shifts, and Weiskopf slays the solo. “Young And Foolish,” on the other hand, is handled as is usually is — a ballad — and Weiskopf’s diction nonetheless remains playful and exuberant.

Fountain Of Youth has the energy and enthusiasm of someone striving to make his mark, but with the discernment of the accomplished veteran that Weiskopf is.


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
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