From left to right: Tim Moss playing the drums, Mike Schweisthal playing the bass, Carle Vickers playing the flute, Adam Douglass playing the guitar and Tom Wierzbicki playing the keyboard.
Photo by Regina Campbell
Like many area performers, West Palm Beach-based drummer Tim Moss started a tribute act. Unlike most, he chose musical roads less traveled.
His quintet, T’s Express, salutes the work of legendary jazz/fusion keyboardists/composers Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea.
Both emerged from the bands of traditional jazz trumpeter-turned-godfather of jazz/fusion Miles Davis, and though the two recorded material together, their paths were often dissimilar. Corea’s compositions were more exacting and technical, fusing into Latin and classical terrain; Hancock’s were more improvisational, funky and modern, like his hip-hop-influenced 1983 hit single, “Rockit.”
Moss did lots of research in finding the versatile personnel for the project in keyboardist Tom Wierzbicki, saxophonist/flutist Carle Vickers, guitarist Adam Douglass and bassist Mike Schweisthal.
“I had to cherry-pick the right players,” Moss says. “Tom can play very technically. I’ve played jazz with him for about 10 years, and I figured if anyone could pull off both Chick and Herbie, it was him. But it wasn’t until I found Mike that I thought I could put this thing together.”
A Connecticut native, Moss has a direct connection to Corea’s music. He studied with Dave Weckl, who was Corea’s primary drummer for most of his final 35 years, many with the keyboardist’s self-titled Elektric Band.
“Since the first time I heard Chick’s Elektric Band, I knew I wanted to be in a group like that,” Moss says. “When I studied with Dave, he told me the only real difference between us was that he was practicing almost around the clock. He also said, ‘Start listening to music that doesn’t have drummers in it and then play to that.’ We’re working on learning ‘Got a Match?’ by the Elektric Band now.”
Recent performances at Village Music in Wellington and Rudy’s in Lake Worth Beach showcased the band’s versatility in tackling the often-disparate Hancock and Corea catalogs.
On the jazz standard “On Green Dolphin Street” and Hancock’s own “Cantaloupe Island,” Wierzbicki displayed the acoustic piano tones that Hancock became renowned for in the 1960s, when he began writing future standards.
The T’s Express version of Hancock’s cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Mercy Street” used the versatile Vickers’ tenor sax, plus Moss coming out from behind his drum kit and playing a hand drum.
“Watermelon Man” from Hancock’s 1973 album, “Head Hunters,” itself a funk/fusion update of the keyboardist’s own Latin-tinged 1962 hit-turned-standard, found Schweisthal nailing the tone and harmonics of Paul Jackson’s inventive and futuristic bass line.
Vickers’ flute on the Brazilian-influenced Corea standard “500 Miles High” and alto sax on his shuffling “Blue Miles” proved the perfect accompaniment to their different feels. “Spain,” perhaps Corea’s best-known composition (often feared for its musical challenges), got a roaring run-through, thanks to the solos of Wierzbicki and Schweisthal.
Corea employed more guitarists (including Bill Connors, Al Di Meola, Frank Gambale and West Palm Beach-born Scott Henderson) in his various ensembles than Hancock did, so it’s natural that Douglass shone on the late composer’s pieces. Berklee College of Music-trained Douglass exploded with complex solos on the swinging “Morning Sprite” and playful “Armando's Rhumba” (also highlighted by Moss’ creative soloing over the remaining band’s vamp).
“As we go through these Chick tunes,” Douglass says, “I’m finding that there are a lot of complicated lines that several of us are playing in unison. So mastering the exact timing of those phrases, memorizing them and playing them in an ensemble setting is very challenging and rewarding.”
See T’s Express from 7 to 10 p.m. March 19 at the Brewhouse Gallery, 720 Park Ave., Lake Park (561-469-8930).