Steve Smith's Jazz Legacy plays music
that is dedicated to honoring the legacy of many
of the great jazz drummers such as Art Blakey,
"Philly" Joe Jones, Elvin Jones, and Tony
Williams. Jazz Legacy also performs original
compositions and arrangements written by the
individual band members which serves to gives
the band a unique direction.
powerhouse, swinging jazz quintet is made up of
five seasoned musicians; Andy Fusco
(alto sax), Walt Weiskopf
(tenor and soprano saxes), Mark Soskin
(piano), Baron Browne (bass)
and bandleader Steve Smith
History of the Band
The story of the group Jazz Legacy starts
with a quintet called
Buddy's Buddies, the Buddy Rich
alumni group that was started by the Buddy Rich
estate in late 1990s. The group was based
primarily around saxophonists Andy Fusco and
Steve Marcus, and performed music associated
with the legendary Buddy Rich.
Marcus had spent twelve years touring and
recording with Buddy, and was also part of the
early jazz-rock scene with Larry Coryell and
Herbie Mann. Andy Fusco was the lead alto player
of the Buddy Rich Big Band from 1978-1983, and
had also toured with legendary performers such
as Mel Lewis and Frank Sinatra.
Andy recruited Steve Smith to play drums with
the group after they played together on several
occasions with the Buddy Rich Big Band in the
'90s. To complete the group, Mark Soskin, a
recording artist and longtime sideman for Sonny
Rollins, joined on piano, and Baron Browne, a
versatile musician who has toured and recorded
with artists as diverse as Billy Cobham to Tom
Jones (and is also a member of Steve Smith's
Vital Information), became the electric bassist.
Over the course of eight years, billed as
Steve Smith and Buddy's Buddies, the group
recorded three albums and toured the world.
Steve Smith and Buddy's Buddies, a studio album,
was recorded in 1999, and two live discs, Very
Live at Ronnie Scott's Set One and Set Two, were
recorded during their week at the famed London
jazz club in 2002.
The sad and unexpected
passing of Steve Marcus in September, 2005, hit
the band very hard. At that point they, decided
to change direction and move away from
principally playing music associated with Buddy
They asked saxophonist Walt
Weiskopf, a fantastic musician and a long-time
friend of both Steve Marcus and Andy Fusco, to
join. In fact, you can see and hear all three
saxophonists on the burning DVD
Buddy Rich Live at the 1982 Montreal
Jazz Festival (Hudson Music).
Walt is a bandleader and recording artist,
and has been working recently with Steely Dan.
The band came up with its band name Jazz Legacy,
which gave them a wide range of options in terms
of musical direction.
Steve Smith wanted
to play music that is dedicated to the legacy of
the great jazz drummers. They had also been
playing some original music that was allowing
the band to develop its own voice.
Pianist Mark Soskin is a prolific writer and
arranger, and has been adding exciting original
compositions and arrangements to the book. With
Walt Weiskopf joining the band, they have
another strong composer and arranger who is
adding exceptional charts to the band's
repertoire, expanding its direction.
There are so many jazz drummers that Steve has
listened to and admired over the years. When he
started thinking about new arrangements for Jazz
Legacy, some of the tunes that he chose were
ones he had been thinking about for a long time.
“Two Bass Hit"¯ is one of these. The main
version that he was familiar with is from the
1958 Miles Davis recording Milestones, where it
served as a feature for Philly Joe Jones. Mark
Soskin's arrangement of the tune is close to the
Miles version, though they band added some parts
that are inspired by a version that Philly Joe
played on his 1960 solo album, Philly Joe's
“Sister Cheryl"¯ is a beautiful
composition written by Tony Williams. Steve
first heard it on Wynton Marsalis' 1981 debut
album, and later on Foreign Intrigue, the 1985
release by the Tony Williams Quintet.
paying tribute to Tony, Steve wanted to
acknowledge his abilities as both a drummer and
composer. “Sister Cheryl"¯ is strong melodically,
harmonically and rhythmically.
electrifying “Insubordination"¯ was written and
recorded by Walt Weiskopf for his album
Simplicity. When Steve heard this piece, he
immediately wanted to add it to the Jazz Legacy
book because of its extremely fast tempo and
Shortly after Steve
Marcus' passing, Walt wrote “For Steve, which
truly captured SteveĆ¢ā‚¬ā„¢s razor-sharp wit and
impish personality. Whenever the band plays this
song, they are reminded of their love for a dear
friend in Steve Marcus.
When Steve heard
“The Peacocks"¯ on Tea For Two, a fantastic album
that is co-led by Andy Fusco and Walt Weiskopf,
their treatment of this Jimmy Rowles gem moved
Steve Smith. Walt's arrangement speaks to the
very depths of life's pains, and the band's
performance keeps the solemn mood throughout.
This has become one of Steve Smith's favorite
The original 1962 recording of
“Inception"¯ is the title track of pianist McCoy
Tyner's debut as a leader. The drummer on the
recording is Elvin Jones.
Along with Art
Davis on bass, the trio plays this minor blues
with a ferocious pulse. It's truly some of the
most exciting jazz Steve ever heard on record.
Walt arranged the tune for Jazz Legacy, and
playing it is a high point of each night's
As another nod to the
incredible Elvin Jones, Walt transcribed the
Jimmy Garrison tune “Ascendant."¯ Steve heard
this on the 1968 recording The Ultimate Elvin
Jones, which featured a trio with Elvin, Jimmy
Garrison on bass, and Joe Farrell on sax.
This tune is the perfect brush feature, and
the melody is so clear and identifiable that
Steve was able to play it on his drum kit before
the final head comes in.
tour-de-force drum feature of the night is “A
Night In Tunisia,"¯ which is inspired by Art Blakey. Steve has a number of versions of this
tune by Art, on both DVD and CD. Those who
haven't heard Art play this tune should check
out the Blue Note recording The Best Of Art Blakey for an incendiary version. The original
album, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers: A Night
In Tunisia, has a different and very good
Mark Soskin wrote an
arrangement that incorporates many of features
of the different Blakey versions, complete with
percussion parts for the band members to play,
and a bass solo over the form and percussion
The only tune that can follow “A
Night In Tunisia" is “Moanin,"¯ the good-time
shuffle by Bobby Timmons. “Moanin"¯ is another
standard of Art Blakey's and a great way to end
More About the Band
Pianist Mark Soskin, a
prolific writer and arranger, has been adding
exciting original compositions and arrangements
to the book allowing the band to develop its own
voice. Mark is a recording artist, bandleader,
and a longtime sideman for many renowned jazz
artists including Sonny Rollins, Billy Cobham
and Herbie Mann.
Tenor and soprano saxophonist Walt
Weiskopf is another strong composer and arranger
who has added great charts to the band's
repertoire. Walt is also a bandleader and
recording artist. His credits include touring
and recording with Toshiko Akiyoshi, the Buddy
Rich Big Band, and Steely Dan.
Andy Fusco was the lead
alto saxophonist of the Buddy Rich Big Band from
1978-1983. He has toured with a number of
legendary performers including Gerry Mulligan,
Mel Lewis, and Frank Sinatra.
Walt have led many of their own solo recordings
for the Criss Cross jazz label, including their
recent co-led recording Tea For Two.
Bassist Baron Browne, one of
most versatile and talented bass players on the
scene, has toured and recorded with Gary Burton,
Billy Cobham, Jean-Luc Ponty, Steps Ahead, and
Tom Jones. Baron is also the bass player in
Steve Smith's jazz/fusion group Steve Smith and