Tenor titan Walt Weiskopf’s European Quartet has been together for about five years, producing several sterling albums along the way. As indicated by that growing history and this latest release, which focuses almost exclusively on the saxophonist’s original music, the man and the band show no signs of slowing down.
Although recording wasn’t originally in the works for this outfit in early 2022, an opportunity to hit the studio during a tour of the Old Continent was too good to pass up. Weiskopf, inspired by the quartet’s return to the road, the kinship demonstrated during the first few concerts on its schedule, and the idea of documenting that connection, spent a train ride from Belgium to Germany writing new material that, ultimately, completed this program.
Three of the album’s eight tracks play directly to its title. There’s the blues-based “Black Diamond,” a buoyant winner through and through; a probing and swinging “Blood Diamond,” addressing natural beauty and the violence surrounding it; and glistening ballad “Other Jewels,” an offering of appreciation for life’s simple gifts. The remaining pieces further highlight Weiskopf’s stellar horn work, his writing and arranging, and a strong connection between bandmates. The driving “Spartacus,” powered by bassist Andreas Lang and drummer Anders Mogensen, and featuring bold statements from the leader and pianist Carl Winther, is the perfect opener. “Incantation,” a contrafact on Bronislaw Kaper’s “Invitation,” possesses its own hip charms. “Thad Nation,” nodding to departed great Thad Jones, is a solid swinger bookended by rousing rubato passages. Lone standard “My Old Flame,” in tribute to alto saxophonist Andy Fusco, reflects the purity of spirit in the late honoree’s playing. And “Everybody,” based on Jerome Kern’s “Nobody Else But Me,” closes things out with good cheer and great musical challenges that Weiskopf and company handle with aplomb.