Drummed out: no Dave Weckl for me

I can’t help it: when it comes to jazz drummers, I can’t abide Dave Weckl. This is a great tragedy, as Chick Corea is one of the greatest jazz pianists, and worked a lot with Weckl. I have numerous discs – the Elektric Band, the Akoustic Band – that Corea made with Weckl, and I love listening to them. Apart from the drumming.

I suppose I was spoilt: my earliest jazz listening involved drummers like Jack de Johnette, Mike Melillo, Grady Tate, Ed Thigpen, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Art Blakey,  and ‘Philly’ Joe Jones. Nowadays, my listening also encompasses the great Bill Stewart (with John Scofield or the late Michael Brecker), Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts (Wynton Marsalis), Michal Wiskiewicz (Marcin Wailewsi trio), Manu Katché, and John Marshall (John Surman).

There’s a great artistry to jazz drumming: keeping the pulse unobtrusively, but being flexible and aware enough to comment on the phrases being improvised around it, punctuating occasional passages, providing a timeless groove, or gently simmering beneath. There are countless albums, too numerous to mention most of them here, where the drumming makes them: think of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, Bitches Brew or In A Silent Way, Manu Katché’s Neighbourhood, Michael Brecker’s Time Is Of The Essence, or John Surman’s Stranger than Fiction.

For me, there’s something just too impersonal about Weckl. His timing is meticulous, his technique polished, his embellishments and decorations robust. But, looking back on those adjectives I’ve just employed to describe Weckl’s playing, none of them are particularly personal: they could be applied to machinery.

Perhaps that’s, simply, what it is: he’s just too mechanical, not quite as warm as de Johnette, lacking the delicate artistry of Marshall or the wonderful warmth of Jones, the subtle nuances of Katché or the creativity of Stewart.

Here he is with the Elektric Band in the bebop-indebted ‘Got A Match;’ it’s highly polished, but somehow just lacks any warmth.

Now listen to Manu Katché on ‘Number One’ from the album Neighbourhood, released on the always-reliable ECM label.

I will keep persevering with Dave Weckl; perhaps I’m missing something. That may well be the case. But, in the meantime, sorry, Dave; it just doesn’t grab me. I need the warmth too.

Do you ?

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2 Responses

  1. I do take your point: perhaps I could have chosen a more acoustic Weckl example to balance the Katche extract; but I still think Weckl’s playing more overpowering than most other drummers. He’s in a line from Steve Gadd, perhaps, rather than de Johnette, but I find it a little bullish: it almost drives the music from behind, rather than being a contributory texture.

    Good luck with hunting for a Weckl ballad: if you find one, let me know! 🙂

  2. This beautiful example of Katché is a complete contrast to Weckl — with regards to the composition, itself. To me, the character of the compositions and playing of all the musicians in these examples are such that they’re impossible to compare and therefore unfair to Weckl.

    I just perused my Weckl collection in the hopes of finding you know, A BALLAD (lol… admittedly not easy to do), and the songs with closest matching “context” could be “Oasis” from Perpetual Motion ( http://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/oasis/id129756337?i=129756375 ), “Passion” from his Transitions album ( http://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/passion/id129756263?i=129756296 ), “Someone’s Watching” from Rhythm of The Soul ( http://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/someones-watching/id129756196?i=129756222 ), “Where’s My Paradise” ( http://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/wheres-my-paradise/id129763427?i=129763470 ).

    While Weckl’s inspiration is taken from the mid-period of the Brecker Brothers, Steps Ahead and touches of Weather Report, and the textures and instruments used in the above examples are still somewhat different than the Manu Katché example you posted (more electric instruments versus Manu’s acoustic), I believe the Weckl examples I referenced are more apples-to-apples than the Chick Chorea example you used… and Weckl seems to do a fine job. He’s just not known as a laid-back player.

    Having got the comparisons of material out of the way, yes, Weckl gravitates towards more technical, “muscular” material. While I’m not always in the mood for it, and I can only take controlled doses of it (I could say the same for even Miles from the 1960’s onwards — but for different reasons), I am amazed and thrilled by Weckl’s dexterity, independence, crazy polyrhythmic abilities and his speed, all the while remaining incredibly relaxed and fluid. It’s pretty amazing to watch him play.

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