Dave Weckl's fifth CD would have been just another good one in a string of many save one thing: the addition of guitar great Buzz Feiten to his usual outstanding rhythm section of Tommy Kennedy on bass and Jay Oliver on keyboards. Feiten's playing and writing talents lifted this release to a level not quite achieved since, giving the whole set an electric edge you can both hear and feel. This CD was recorded on the heels of an extensive tour, and I can only imagine the on stage excitement and creativity that led to such an outstanding musical set.
Audio quality is outstanding throughout, driven by Weckl's accomplished studio techniques and penchant for perfection. High Life is signature Dave Weckl, with an African-inspired drum groove over a tight rhythm section ending in a ridiculous drum solo. Panda's Dream is one of those Buzz Feiten tunes that makes this CD unique; it features a rock groove and guitar lead that makes this one of my all-time favorite Dave Weckl tunes. Swunk features a kind of half-time driving swing famous among drummers (and made popular by Weather Report) for how fun it is to play; checkout the full-blown straight-time swing under a good sax solo. A Simple Prayer is a Feiten ballad featuring a dreamy acoustic guitar. Cape Fear is an interesting groove with a haunting guitar melody, but nothing prepares you for the killer bass solo that ends the tune. After an opening bass solo, the title cut (Synergy) makes you want to get up and dance, and is also one of my favorites on the CD. Where's My Paradise is a second ballad written by Feiten and Oliver featuring some nice acoustic guitar work. Swamp Thing is another rocker featuring Buzz Feiten with a great horn lead, and quickly became one of my all-time favorite Dave Weckl tunes. If you're keeping count, that's two (2!) tracks off of one CD that made my "all-time favorite" list, and both are either written or co-written by Buzz Feiten featuring solos by the same. The last two cuts are really throw-aways for me: Cultural Concurrence is the obligatory Dave Weckl triggered drum solo, and Tower '99 is a re-work of Tower Of Inspiration off of his first CD (Master Plan). It's a nice groove, but I recommend checking out the original that features a killer horn arrangement.
There are a lot of solid cuts on this CD, comprising almost 70 minutes of music! Excellent liner notes along with some nice band pictures elevate the "features" rating to a 5 for this release. This is one of my two or three favorite Dave Weckl CD's, and I always find myself hoping for the return of Buzz Feiten to his recording band.
Although Dave Weckl is an excellent drummer, not all of his recordings have been excellent. In the 1990s, you never knew if you would find something exciting or mundane on a Weckl album. But this fusion/soul-jazz disc turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Synergy, in fact, is the drummer's most consistently satisfying CD. Excessive producing was a major problem on some of his previous releases, but this time he generally avoids overproducing and goes for a real band sound. Joined by tenor and soprano saxman Brandon Fields, keyboardist Jay Oliver, guitarist Buzz Feiten, and electric bassist Tom Kennedy, Weckl has a solid team to work with and emphasizes improvisation and honest-to-God playing not high-tech studio gloss. Weckl's band sounds quite cohesive on a diverse, unpredictable outing that ranges from the funky "Wet Skin" and the Latin-influenced title song to the ominous "Cape Fear" and the delicate "A Simple Prayer." If you could purchase only one of Weckl's 1990s albums, Synergy would be the best choice
The Dave Weckl Band returns with their second release, "", to find a more diverse and exciting forray into instumental soundscapes. If the first release, "Rhythm of the Soul", gave you a thrill, this album will blow you clean out of your chair. Of course, this album will be snatched up by musicians, due to the impressive lineup, but the general jazz afficionado will also be stunned at the level of playing and compsition this release has to offer. "Highlife" starts out the album with a joyus 12/8 stomp that preludes the fun to come. "Panda's Dream", a composition offered from guitar legend Buzz Feiten, soars with beautiful tones and melodies. Another happy musical brawl, "Swunk" is a fast-paced mix of (of course) funk and swing. Rapidly changing through paces, it's nearly 5 minutes are over just leaving you wanting more. Finally, a lovely reprieve with another Feiten composition, "A Simple Prayer". "Cape Fear" is an ominous jam leading off with Tom Kennedy on bass and Dave chugging like a demented carnival train. That should give you an idea of this moody jam. A song that would do ol' JB proud, ("Say it Loud!") "Wet Skin" is a tribute to the sound that Dave grew up to. The aptly title track, "Synergy", is a wonderful showcase of a myriad of different styles from latin, jazz, and funk. The jazz ballad, "Where's My Paradise", (God, that man Buzz can write!) is a beautiful example of the maturity that this band has come into. Now, what's a drummer's album without an odd-time groove? "Lucky Seven", a Brandon Fields composition, is the tricky meter 7/4 that we as musicians have come to love. Back it up with such funky sax, a person could almost dance to this. Then watch them start snapping their fingers. (Giggle here!) One of my personal favorites, "Swamp Thing", incorporates the New Orleans funk with purposeful melody lines that drive this tune. Just sit there. I dare you. Ahh, the last bastion; the drum solo. "Cultural Concurrence" is a dizzying display of ethnic percussion and drum set mastery. Beginning with tribal triplets, it quickly spins on one heel into a slamming 4/4 of an onslaught of Dave's latest bag 'o' tricks. Just about laid down the sticks after this track. (Naaaaaah!) The only tune performed from Dave's past albums, "Tower '99" is a return visit to "Tower of Inspiration" from his album "Master Plan". Revamped, and giving the indelible stamp of the whole band, this send-up to the Tower of Power influences Dave grew up with, is a fitting transition from the past to the bright future this collective has in front of them. All in all, this is a album that doesn't sacrifice groove and feel for the technical wizardry. Challenging as well as fun to listen to makes "Synergy" a shining gem in any music lovers collection.