You might have noticed that Dave Weckl has gone though some serious changes recently. While the drummer has always attracted legions of loyal chops-worshippers who marvel at his incredible technique and precision, he also has had to endure sometimes unkind criticism about playing with a sterile, soulless feel.
So the fusion specialist went to one of the greatest drum instructors in the world, L.A.’s Freddie Gruber, to try to put some funk into his feel. It worked. “With Freddie’s approach, which is an action/reaction concept of letting the stick do a lot of the work, it’s changed my way of communicating the emotion through the drum set,” he says.
Weckl’s new groove is evident on the 11 tracks from his CD, Rhythm Of The Soul, and the song “Mud Sauce” is a shining example. The following transcription is taken from the vamp just after the melody at the end of the tune, where Weckl’s groove is inspired by slinky second-line phrases. “It’s a feel that I’ve been messing around with for quite a while and enjoy playing,” he says. “People like Jim Keltner are very responsible for me delving into that stuff and checking it out. Jim always plays these great, amazing, weird feels. It’s New Orleans inspired, but it’s not totally a New Orleans thing.”
Instead of making a statement with gobs of notes, Weckl orchestrates this greasy feel all over the drum set, using melodic fragments and little rhythmic motifs in a dialogue that develops with the saxophone. “I couldn’t go into too much of a soloistic frame of mind,” he says. “It wouldn’t work. I had to stick within a certain approach and not overplay it. The feel had to keep going.”
Be aware that the resulting slightly swung notes land in the gray area that exists somewhere between straight eighth-notes and triplets, and there’s no way to accurately portray that stuff on paper. So before you dig into the music on the following couple pages, it would be wise to go out and pick up a copy of Rhythm Of The Soul, so that you can follow along and get a good idea of the drummer’s feel. Otherwise, these dots and lines just won’t do justice to Weckl’s slinky groove, and that, after all, is what his new direction is all about.