Drumming up a storm

WORTH THE PAIN Dave Weckl loves music tours   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Dave Weckl – the American drummer, who has redefined Jazz fusion scene, had an impressive performance with bass prodigy Mohini Dey, Abhijith Nair, Sandeep Mohan (who form the group Absandey) at the Jazz India Circuit’s concert at One Golden Mile last week. His stylistic fluency gained popularity during his association with the Chick Corea Elektric Band in mid 1980s during which he did many albums and later also appeared with Corea's Akoustic Band. On his second visit to India, he talks about his inventive themes in contemporary Jazz scene, his process of composition and how technological shifts are not changing his approach to music.


When did your realization for music happen?

I remember I started playing at the age of 6-7. I have no idea why I chose drum though as I started off with guitar, which my dad got me from Los Angeles. But when I grew up, I used to hit everything around me from dinner table to almirah and that is when I gravitated towards the drum. Seeing this, my dad bought me a cheap drum set with which I used to imitate the music records and I found that I can do this pretty easily.

What kind of music was it?

It was only rock and roll at that point in time. When I got into my teens, I used to listen to Three Dog Night, the famous American rock band. I started to listen to more funk stuff later and love to hear James Brown, the progenitor of funk music.

In 1970s pop took many forms, pop-funk being one of those. Can it be said as a period of great innovation?

Music is always going through a phase and that is the beautiful thing about it. I grew up in a time when big bands were still very established and were touring across the Midwest, where I grew up. Big fusion bands were not touring so much but I was exposed to them through records. I moved to New York when I was 19; I spent a lot of time seeing all those great players and eventually played with all of them. So that was a crucial time.

How do you recollect that New York fusion scene of early 1980s, something which you closely experienced?

It was a very interesting time because it was really the beginning of smooth Jazz. It was crossing over from instrumental R&B to a smoother pop stuff, which I was doing for a long time with records. I was playing for records which were mostly groove-oriented and I got out of that style by mid-1980s because by then, I joined Chick Corea Elektric Band.

How was it different from other things happening that time?

Chicks’ writing pretty much defined a unique form, which is closer to traditional jazz than the jazz-rock and that is what we do. The second album Light Years was much more funk-oriented and through that we became more commercial. But after that, we went back to the traditional, more Chick fusion.

How the contemporary fusion in Jazz has changed the scene?

Though there are a few other fusion bands still touring, I would answer it from my point of view. I still play with Mike Stern and we still play what we used to play, something which is still considered as Jazz-rock fusion. How is it evolved? You are asking a wrong guy. I do not know things evolving out of my own evolution (laughs). We are still doing what we used to do, which makes us who we are and there is history involved with everything we do. We are doing it, but it is still coming from our own roots laid by artists like Steve Gadd, Elvin Ray Jones, Tony Williams and countless others. That does not mean that we are not attempting new things.

Do you compose music according to audience perspective?

I never compromise or adjust a composition based on what I think the audiences want to hear. Nor do I try to commercially fit or mould myself. It is one of the reasons that I never went to any number one records because I do not follow those rules.

But it is always an invitation to listen…

Of course. But it is based on my rules. It is basically an honest artistic display of the creation of the song. My band conforms to a way of writing, which is pure.

How do the process of arrangement and composition changes while you work with other musicians?

I think there are styles unique to artists for this as they are for playing the instruments. For me, the best way to write is co-compose for a specific instrumentation. In my Acoustic Band, for example, we all members co-wrote together and in instances like that, a lot of the composition comes from the JAM sessions when we are just playing without saying anything. In that sense everybody’s contribution matters which we elaborate in later stages.

Drums are very personal instruments. Does an artist reflect an internal philosophy through it?

My father always trained me to be a perfectionist. Doing it right. In one sense, it takes a lot of sacrifices, practice and dedication to achieve precision. And that is how I have patterned my own plane. I always try to express, have a soulful expression mixed with technically precise rhythm.

Is the philosophy changing with computer-generated music – something which is always precise?

This is my second phase with it. When I was growing up and playing in New York, I had to sound like a machine because the LinnDrum machine was taking over the drummers in mid-eighties. When we were working in a studio, we had to be precise. As someone in a minority who played fusion Jazz with the real instruments, I have realised that there is still enough desire for live music. Travelling is painful but touring with music is worth all pains and it is for those who like to listen to it. I am a total live music advocate and that is why I am here to play live in Delhi!

So what is new for you at this point in time?

I still see elements of past in everything that is supposed to be new because people really have to look back for a reference. What I love about doing fusion music is that the different styles create something new. At least, it is there listening wise though we cannot put a label on it.

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 11:30:22 PM |

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