Tom Durkin
Special to The Union

Dave Weckl acoustic band jazzes up the Center for the Arts

To stay alive, many professional jazz musicians must pursue multiple streams of income.

For instance, “I’m involved in three or four bands,” Dave Weckl revealed in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Next Thursday, the world-famous jazz drummer is bringing his very own band, The Dave Weckl Acoustic Band, to the Center for the Arts for its debut tour and CD release.

Modern Drummer magazine has named Weckl “one of the 25 best drummers of all time” and inducted him into their Hall of Fame.

Although he’s played with an amazing variety of musicians and genres, his first love is jazz. He is, perhaps best known as the drummer for seven years for both Chick Corea’s Elektric and Akoustic Bands.

Demonstrating his range as a master drummer, he has backed such diverse acts as Simon & Garfunkel, Madonna, Dianna Ross and Robert Plant. And that’s not to mention “a ton of session work” and performing with jazz greats including Mike Stern, Chuck Loeb, Oz Noy, and Chris Minh Doky and the Nomads, to name a few.

Being one of the best in the business gives Weckl the luxury of choosing the best musicians to join him – if he can coordinate schedules with them, because they all play in other bands, too.

Chemistry and timing

“The reason I put this band together is because of the special chemistry of the four musicians, and particularly the rhythm section. I’ve been playing together with the bass player Tom Kennedy since we were 15,” he said.

Rounding out Weckl’s select quartet are Makoto Ozone on piano and keyboards, and Gary Meek on tenor and soprano saxophones.

“You’re talking about some really stellar musicians,” confirmed KVMR DJ Bruce Tepper who hosts a jazz show on alternate Tuesday mornings. “I’ve been plugging Weckl on my show.”

“The chemistry of the rhythm section was so off the hook that it just propelled an almost childhood excitement for all of us to put the band together,” Weckl recalled.

“The way that it happened was an incredible, stars-aligned, everything in the right place and the right time kind of thing. It happened very fast. Once we agreed to do it, I told everybody, “OK, we’re doing it. Everybody write music.”

Last January, “We were all in L.A. rehearsing in my studio for two days. We did two gigs. Then we went back in the studio and recorded a record in two days,” Weckl said.

“We haven’t seen each other since then.”

The band will rendezvous at Yoshi’s in Oakland next Wednesday to kick off their tour before arriving in Grass Valley with their debut CD “The Dave Weckl Acoustic Band – Of the Same Mind.”

Although Weckl is widely known as a jazz fusion drummer, next Thursday’s show is “not really fusion at all,” he said.

“It’s kind of contemporary retro,” he ruminated, worried about “pigeonholing” the music. “Of course, there’s straight-ahead jazz, but there’s a lot of Latin. It’s not all jazz. There’s some funky stuff, too.”

He mentioned he’s modified his drum kit for this tour.

Jazz and all that business

Dave Weckl has a discography as long as your arm, which includes more than a dozen instructional DVD/videos. In addition to credits on other people’s albums, he’s recorded and produced nine solo albums.

Also, the Dave Weckl Band (1998 to 2006) released five studio albums.

Performing and selling CDs is a large part of any musician’s income, but it’s not enough. Weckl supplements his earnings by teaching seminars for Yamaha drums and his own intensive workshops on the road, including the annual Drum Fantasy Camp in Ohio.

At home, he does session work, and sells everything from instructional materials to drumsticks and cymbals. It’s all part of being an entrepreneurial musician, he sighed.

After 30 years, Weckl sees his intense perform-teach-sell business plan as “a kind of a circle that has to keep going,” even though he doesn’t enjoy all aspects of being a business.

The circle has to keep going, because, “The real essence of what I do is out there playing with people.”

Although she has vocal talent, Weckl said his daughter has chosen not to pursue a music career. After four months of the best vocal and guitar training her dad could provide, “she admitted she doesn’t have the drive,” he said.

He’s perfectly okay with her choice. “It’s a hard life.”

He concluded, “You’ve got to make your choices – and for some of us, there is no choice. It’s just something you are.”

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada City. He can be contacted at tdurkin@vfr.net.


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The Union Updated Aug 7, 2014 11:09AM Published Aug 7, 2014 11:09AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.