Among the game-changing fusion drummer’s recent projects: a reunion of the group that began our infatuation with him in the first place.
Story and photo by Mike Haid
In 1985, Chick Corea, who had helped usher in jazz-fusion with Miles Davis in the ’60s, introduced a completely new sound. Appropriately naming his project the Elektric Band, the keyboard legend enlisted up-and-coming drummer Dave Weckl to see how much further he could push genre boundaries.
Three decades after the Elektric Band’s inception—in a period that has found the keyboardist revisiting a number of his historic instrumental alliances—Corea has not only put the original lineup back together again to perform its classic work, but he’s insisting that the unit will be continuing the uncharted explorations that set it apart initially. Since the group’s classic lineup last convened, Corea, Weckl, guitarist Frank Gambale, sax player Eric Marienthal, and bassist John Patitucci have matured individually as well as collectively, and they’re taking their music to new heights. Weckl for one is thrilled to be back touring with his E-Band mates. “In a word, it’s fantastic!” Dave says with obvious glee. “It’s a combination of comfort and familiarity, along with the freshness of it all happening in the moment at this mature stage in our careers.
“Chick always inspired creativity,” Weckl continues. “Being around that energy helped propel us all in the direction of exploration, both musically and compositionally. I’ve always tried to grow, and all of life’s experiences, musical and otherwise, have helped me evolve into who I am now. I strive to play my best, support the other musicians, and hopefully make some great music with feeling and emotion for all involved.”
While his playing has progressed since the original Elektric Band days, Weckl has, in a sense, consciously devolved his drumset. “Being that it was called the Elektric Band,” he says, “I was exploring the electronic aspect of my setup, both by triggering sounds from the drums and by incorporating pads. I have since let all that go and just play the acoustic kit. Now I use proper miking to help create the sound I envision.” While Corea’s recent projects have been well received, predictions of the widespread return of jazz-fusion have proven overstated in the past. So where does Weckl see the current state of electric jazz? “CNN recently reported that jazz is dead,” he says. “The E-Band just sold out a 250-seat club, two shows a night, for six nights in a row. So there still seems to be some interest—for this band, anyway. Chick is an icon, and we all have loyal fans who still enjoy what we do. I think there will always be an audience for electric jazz. But it is, and generally has been, a relatively small one.”
Beyond the Elektric Band reunion, Weckl has been busy with his own group, plus tours with guitarists Oz Noy and Mike Stern, and with Norwegian bass star Chris Minh Doky’s Nomads. “I do a good deal of teaching, recording tracks in my home studio, and producing other artists as well,” he adds. “In fact, I’m embarking on a major teaching project soon. So stay tuned!”