Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Walt Weiskopf Quartet: Live

Capri Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Walt Weiskopf Quartet Live

Walt Weiskopf is one of today's many multi-talented musicians; he plays tenor sax and clarinet, composes, arranges, teaches and is a writer. He joined the Buddy Rich band when he was just 21, after earning a bachelor of arts degree from the prestigious Eastman College. Then, just a few years later, he began a 14-year relationship with Toshiko Akiyoshi and her big band, touring throughout the United States, Japan and Europe.

Weiskopf continued studying during this period, and earned a master's degree from Queens College. He added the clarinet to his arsenal and began to play extensively with classical orchestras. In 2002, he became a member of the Eastman College faculty.

This is the first live concert album Weiskopf has released. His quartet —pianist Renee Rosnes, bassist Paul Gill and drummer Tony Reedus — performed at the University of South Carolina's Koger Hall. Although the concert was recorded, Weiskopf hadn't planned to release a CD commercially. But when Reedus died unexpectedly shortly after that performance, Weiskopf decided to issue the album as a tribute.

Weiskopf isn’t new to me; I’ve always been impressed by his originality and technique, and he doesn’t disappoint here. Weiskopf composed four of the tracks and arranged the remaining tunes: a traditional Scottish folk song and a couple of standards ("Blame It on My Youth" and "Love For Sale").

But I wasn't familiar with Rosnes, and she's a huge surprise; this Canadian-born artist is truly excellent. She swings wonderfully and is quite inventive. The rhythm section of Gill and Reedus provides solid backing, although the latter is too "busy" at times for my taste.

All in all, this is an intriguing combo. I look forward to hearing more from them.

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