Walt Weiskopf has two academic degrees, is a college professor and has published eight books. He played in the big bands of Buddy Rich (at 21) and Toshiko Akiyoshi (for 14 years). He performs with classical orchestras and has a long-running gig with Steely Dan. He also makes records of his own. Fountain of Youth is the 17th.
But when the first track hits, you could easily think you were listening to a 25-year-old tenor saxophone badass, come to town to raise hell. “Backstage Blues” is a butt-kicker. Weiskopf’s tenor leaps and jolts over a theme so spiky Monk might have written it (Weiskopf did). Further listening reveals that Fountain of Youth could only have come from someone with broad experience of music and life. It is unlikely that a 25-year-old would be drawn to the aching sweetness of “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” or be charmed by the song’s elongated second A section, which creates a tantalizing six-bar bridge. Weiskopf understands it all. (Pianist Peter Zak glistens on this track.)
“Laura” is improbably fast yet keeps its mystery. “Young and Foolish” stays a ballad—a hard ballad, with a rapt solo by bassist Mike Karn. Weiskopf is a deeply intuitive interpreter of standards, but in order to express the range of his emotional life, he also composes his own material. The brooding melody of “Echoes of the Quiet Past” comes upon elusive, complex memories, over which Weiskopf then lingers. “Hot Dog Days” is pure jubilation. It also deals with memories, but simpler ones, like the amusement parks and beaches of childhood. “Heads in the Clouds” celebrates creative distraction, at the tempo that Weiskopf’s tight quintet (which also includes vibraphonist Behn Gillece and drummer Steve Fidyk) eats alive: medium-up but unhurried, with time for digressions and daydreams.
For more information, visit posi-tone.com. Weiskopf is at Smalls Jul. 21st-22nd.