Sixty-one-year-old Dave Weckl’s well-deserved reputation as a jazz/fusion A-Team drummer stems from numerous recordings and tours as a sideman, a long stretch as the late Chick Corea’s drummer of choice, and live appearances by his own self-titled band. Recorded in Weckl’s hometown, the new Live in St. Louis echoes that band’s previous live recording, the fiery Live (And Very Plugged In) from 2003. Both feature saxophonist Gary Meek and bassist Tom Kennedy; the new disc also includes original late-’90s band members Jay Oliver (keyboards) and Buzz Feiten (guitar).
Native New Yorker Feiten and the California-born Meek give the quintet East Coast/West Coast spice, but it’s the remaining trio of St. Louis products that give Weckl’s band its fiber. Oliver’s chording and solo drive the funky opener “The Zone,” with the drummer and the underrated Kennedy providing the rhythmic gear-shifting. The simpatico rhythm section then upshifts into fourth on the subsequent “Big B Little B,” with powerful half-tempo bridges that allow Feiten to provide rocking power chords and Weckl soloing over a late vamp as few others can.
Kennedy’s fluid solo highlights the New Orleans-themed “Mud Sauce,” and he and Weckl are in lockstep on a dizzying bass-and-drums duet interpretation of Thelonious Monk’s “Rhythm-a-Ning.” Oliver’s versatility as he switches between organ and acoustic and electric piano sounds pays dividends on everything from original ballads (“Song for Claire”) to rockers (the closing, off-timed “Access Denied”). And anyone ordering a digital copy of this live recording gets a bonus cover encore. Saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis’ strutting “The Chicken” gained extra renown through bassist Jaco Pastorius’ reinterpretation, and like they did on Live (And Very Plugged In), the entire band (particularly Weckl and Kennedy) take it into fifth gear and beyond.