By George Halas
Loyal Inquisitors may recall previous references to jazz-fusion band KWT4 and the group’s strong debut album, Band Box. There may have been some mention of how well the band played live…
The group is moving forward as guitarist and Appleton native Scott Dercks joins saxophonist Tom Washatka, bassist Kevin Wells and drummer Tony Taylor as the newly re-christened KWT Featuring Tom Washatka.
Dercks, who recently moved back to the area after 20 years working as a professional musician in Minneapolis, previously played with Washatka in the highly regarded group Nearvana. He will have an immediate effect on the live sound.
“The energy Scott brings is infectious, contagious,” Wells said. “He brings a new perspective to what we do. The sound should evolve rather quickly. His energy and his approach will reflect on all of us.”
“Anytime you have an infusion of new material, it creates excitement,” Taylor added. “It allows me to express myself in different ways, and, as musicians, we’re always looking for new ways to express ourselves.”
“Scott has a different energy and a different approach to the instrument,” Washatka said. “His sound complements the new material we’re learning. This is the sound I envisioned.”
“What I’d like to do,” he added, “is to keep moving towards an original book. I’m encouraging everybody to bring stuff––even if it’s just a groove or an idea––and we’ll develop it collectively.”
“I’ve always liked the idea of collaborative efforts and having a strong framework in which to work and grow,” Dercks said. “Everyone gets a feeling of ownership. It’s not an individual’s effort, it’s the band’s effort.”
The process already had a test drive with “Attaboy,” a Washatka composition that became the first cut on Band Box and a highly-requested staple of the live shows.
“I’m not sure we’re playing it the way Tom envisioned,” Wells said, laughing.
“Everyone added something,”Washatka noted, “and it is evolving again as Scott is putting his signature on it.”
“I’m looking forward to getting involved in the music and the arrangements as well as bringing in some ideas,” Taylor said. “We all want to contribute more artistically.”
Dercks has “at least a hundred” original compositions that he is excited about getting the ‘band” treatment.
“I want to play music that is more sophisticated, higher energy, more contemporary,” he said. “I love old style jazz, but I want to play funkier, groovier stuff that people can dance to if they want and listen to if they want. Something for mind, something for the body. This band will challenge everyone.”
“I hope people will come out and hear (the new music),” he added. “The area has gotten much more cosmopolitan over the last 20 years but the music has not.”
For Dercks, this is setting up to be an ideal situation.
“This is exactly the kind of music that I want to play with exactly the players I want to play with,’ he said. “This is a semi-established band––we’re not starting from scratch––so the opportunities to play festivals and tour are much closer than they would be with a band just starting out.”
The quartet makes it live debut at Becket’s in Oshkosh on Friday, February 13––no cover.
“Scott will be a good fit, I think, for what they want to achieve,” said former KWT4 guitarist Tom Theabo, who is moving on to new projects of his own. “In addition to Janet Planet, I’ll be playing in a trio with (drummer) Mike Malone, (bassist) Andy Lincoln Sachen or John Gibson.”
“Right now, it’s The Mike Malone Trio,” Malone said, “but these guys are so good––we’re trying to think of a name that characterizes all three of us.”
The musical community in the Fox Valley is one very good drummer richer with Malone back in town. Originally from the area, he dropped out of UW – Eau Claire to tour with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, went back and graduated, then toured Europe with Ray Brown, Jr.
He’s back for the foreseeable future.