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Dave Weckl: The Zone

As the marketing info states, this two-disc CD/DVD set is “a perfect gift for anyone who has ever dreamed of playing the drums; or anyone who wants to play better!” It should be added that this product would also be the ideal introduction to the world of Dave Weckl. The audio CD features selections from three of Weckl’s releases as a leader-Rhythm of the Soul, Synergy and Transition-and includes “Tee Funk” and “Serenalin,” two tracks previously available only on Japanese versions of the albums. The DVD “sampler” contains highlights from Weckl’s three-part Carl Fischer instructional video series, A Natural Evolution. Keep in mind though that the term “highlights” is misleading here, as this is really a “teaser” in the truest sense; for any in-depth inspiration and information, one would have to buy the full-length videos. Most segments are only two to three minutes long.

Technique is the focus of part one, as guest expert Freddy Gruber (who has also influenced Steve Smith, Neil Peart and Adam Nussbaum, among others) appears in a cameo illustrating the proper stroke. As such matters as body position, wrist/arm movement and grip are discussed, the overall message is that physical technique is merely a means to an end, which should be an organic, relaxed feel allowing for full musical expression. The highlight of the DVD occurs during this segment, some partial performance footage of Weckl on a Yamaha Hipgig kit in an acoustic jazz quartet setting with saxophonist Ernie Watts.

Part two concerns how and what to practice to achieve natural movement, a flowing motion by which the body dictates pulse. Time subdivisions discussed increase from quarters and 8ths to triplets and 16ths, while a stylish mix of black-and-white and color videography and slick close-up insert shots during more conventional wide-angle views of Weckl’s quintet (which the drummer refers to as his “big band”) lend the proceedings a highly professional look.

The third segment announces that “playing is only 50 percent” and addresses developing one’s sound through tuning, touch and choices in equipment. Weckl apparently wishes to narrow these personal decisions down a bit, since this segment alone contains more product placement than some full-length Hollywood motion pictures. From his Yamaha Maple Custom set with Remo heads, to his Shure microphones through Yamaha’s O1V digital mixer that replaces two refrigerator-sized racks of noise gates and compressors he used during his Chick Corea days, Weckl is certainly crystal clear concerning his signature sound. The video concludes with a replay of the same solo used at the opening, shot artfully from behind, complete with smoke effects.

Originally Published