As the man behind the skins, Dave Weckl has backed a lot of bands in his life.
Drumming six years with Chick Corea's Elektric and Akoustic bands and traveling around the world supporting guitar legend Mike Stern has earned Weckl much-deserved fame.
Now, meet Weckl the band leader.
Weckl stepped out from behind his drums to recruit supporting band members for his own group before hopping on the stool and knocking out an intense album titled "Rhythm Of The Soul."
Weckl is often asked what drove him to form his own band.
"I felt the timing was right," he said. "I did it more out of necessity. I really wanted to say things my way."
In the initial forming of the band, it was Weckl and longtime musician friends Tom Kennedy on bass and Jay Oliver on keyboards. Weckl added Buzz Feiten and Frank Gambale because he wanted guitarists with wide ranges of abilities.
Weckl said the sax choir, comprised of Bob Malach and Steve Tavaglione, took a while to put together, since he followed the same formula he used to recruit guitarists.
The outcome was well worth the effort. With the band completely formed — a mirror image of the Max Weinberg Seven — all the ingredients were there for a spicy recipe of jazz. Some call it jazz fusion, but Weckl disagrees.
"We play instrumental music with funk, R&B, rock and jazz influences," he said. "There's a lot of groove stuff, but we're definitely not a fusion band. My previous records leaned toward fusion. This music seems to satisfy those people who liked fusion, and more who don't like jazz."
Weckl's latest album is the first with an entire band, and his fourth overall. His first three albums were cranked out in a factory process, but on the new album, Weckl focused more on how "Rhythm of the Soul" would reach his audience.
"'Rhythm' encompasses the honest effort that Joy and I wanted to say," Weckl said. "We were trying to accomplish being able to satisfy our fan base and expand our audience. This album had more of a band feel, and not just a conceptual studio feel."
Weckl's inspiration for this album came from what he called his "vast well of musical knowledge," which he says grew deeper from over 30 years of playing music and the roots he was listening to as a kid.
Weckl listed Stevie Wonder, Richard Tee (a late famous keyboard player), Sting, James Brown and Earth Wind and Fire as his most inspirational influences.
"I'm very happy with the record. I can still listen to it and be proud of it," Weckl said.
With all the success he has endured with his sticks, it is amazing to learn that Weckl started on guitar.
"That didn't last too long, though," Weckl said. "Either I had a bad teacher, or it just didn't come easy to me."
The one thing that did come easy to Weckl was the drums.
He picked them up when he witnessed some older neighbors having fun with their own band. It wasn't long before his love set in.
"When I was eight, I was banging on boxes and pans laid out across my bed," Weckl explained. "My dad saw my interest and bought me a cheap set. I listened to records and did my own thing for four years before finally taking a lesson."
Throughout high school, Weckl was involved in jazz band and marching band and got to attend numerous festivals and competitions. He went on to attend college as a jazz major, but his education started getting in the way of his career.
"By my second semester, I was working so much and traveling a lot that I let school go. I went part-time for another year," he said.
Eventually Weckl left college behind, but he doesn't regret it.
"The reason I went to college was to play music, and I'm doing it," he said.
In 1983 he landed a spot touring with Simon and Garfunkel, a life-changing event as far as Weckl was concerned.
"It was my first major, major gig," Weckl said. "It was like going from jumping out of weddings and bar mitzvahs to doing a stadium concert tour. That was pretty intense for a 23-year-old."
After that tour, Weckl got himself involved with the pop music industry in New York. He scored studio dates with stars like Diana Ross, Robert Plant and even Madonna.
"I need to fix the rumor about Madonna. The only thing I did with her were overdubs on 'Like A Virgin.' Basically, I didn't play drums. I played tom toms on part of a song. That was it," Weckl confessed.
After playing the part of studio musician for 50 to 60 records for two years while also doing TV commercials and movies, Weckl hit the road with Chick Corea, which eventually led him to his current fate.
"After 15 years of being a sideman, it was just a matter of having more creative aspects of music," Weckl explained. "My sideman role turned to part-time leader when I realized people were coming out to see me besides the lead man."
As far as his current project goes, Weckl plans to stick with it for the moment.
"There's a special feeling to it," he said. "It feels like a band, and it comes off well."
The Dave Weckl Band will play Saturday at the M-Shop at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 for students and $10 for non-students.