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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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RANDY BRECKER

The Brecker Brothers Band
Reunion

Piloo PR 007

 

 

Disc 1

Studio CD

1. First Tune Of The Set

2. Stellina

3. The Dipshit

4. Merry Go Town

5. The Slag

6. Really In For It

7. Elegy For Mike

8. On The Rise

9. Adina

10. R N Bee
11. Musician’s Ol’ Lady Dues Blues

Collective personnel

Randy Brecker – Trumpet, flugelhorn, electric trumpet

Ada Rovatti – Tenor sax, soprano sax

David Sanborn – Alto sax

Jim Campagnola – Baritone sax

Mike Stern, Dean Brown, Adam Rogers, Mitch Stein – Guitar

Will Lee, Chris Minh Doky – Bass

Dave Weckl, Rodney Holmes – Drums

George Whitty – Keyboards, percussion, programming, organ, sound design, nurse wretched

Oli Rockberger – Vocals, keyboards

Randroid - Rap

Disc 2

DVD: Live at the Blue Note

1. First Tune Of The Set

2. The Slag

3. Adina

4. Really In For It

5. Straphangin'

6. Stellina

7. Merry Go Town

8. Inside Out

9. Some Skunk Funk

Randy Brecker – Trumpet, electric trumpet, flugelhorn

Ada Rovatti – Tenor sax, soprano sax

Mike Stern – Guitar

Will Lee – Bass

Dave Weckl – Drums

George Whitty - Keyboards

Randroid – Vocals

Oli Rockberger – Vocals, keyboards (track 7)

 

rom 1974 to 1979, Randy Brecker and his younger brother Mike led the Brecker Brothers, a jazz-rock band which expertly mixed jazz with rock rhythms to concoct a heady mixture with widespread appeal. They even had a top-40 hit in Britain in 1979 with East River. The brothers reunited the band several times in later years but Mike sadly died in 2007.

When assembling a band to play at the Blue Note club in New York, Randy realised that the musicians he chose (all except for his wife Ada Rovatti and keyboardist Ali Rockberger) had played in various permutations of the Brecker Brothers band. So he called the two discs here a reunion of the ensemble: they are dedicated to Mike Brecker and other members of the band who have passed on.

The original band stood out from the crowd because it brought instrumental excellence to the jazz-rock genre. It was commercial without too much dumbing-down. In fact the tunes were often extremely complex, although they could also be downright funky. The reunion band can boast instrumental excellence but they differ in adding some extra layers of manipulation. These include George Whitty providing “programming and sound design”, as well as “nurse wretched” (which seems to be a throaty nurse phoning with bad news). This takes away some of the original band’s naturalness, as does “Randroid”, which is Randy Brecker vocalising. He actually does sprechgesang tiresomely on Really In For It, but he is more acceptable in On The Rise and Musician’s Ol’ Lady Dues Blues. On the latter, he sings in ironic imitation of a laid-back blues performer, sounding like a cross between Clark Terry (doing Mumbles) and Mick Jagger.

Thankfully the instrumental side of the CD saves the day, with first-rate solos from Randy Brecker himself; David Sanborn on The Dipshit (inspired by Lee Morgan’s Sidewinder) and Really In For It; and the miraculous Dave Weckl in On The Rise. The arrangements are tight, and the rhythm section avoids the repetitiousness that bedevils some jazz-fusion outings. Ada Rovatti can’t quite equal Mike Brecker’s emotional depth on tenor sax, although she and Randy combine dextrous skill with warm feeling on such tracks as Stellina (dedicated to the couple’s daughter Stella). Mike Brecker’s spirit is movingly evoked in Elegy For Mike by Ada Rovatti’s soprano sax and Randy Brecker’s trumpet.

The DVD omits this number and three others from the CD, although it contains three tunes that are not on the CD. It enables us to see the band in action and, as a drummer myself, I am most impressed by Dave Weckl’s monster technique, which seems too adroit to take in completely.

First Tune Of The Set is a good example of the band’s strengths. Randy and Ada confidently exchange 16-bar and then 8-bar segments. Mike Stern adds a searing though sometimes abrasive guitar solo (his solo on Straphangin’ is less gritty). And Dave Weckl’s drum solo is unbelievable. Of the DVD tracks which are not on the CD, Inside Out includes a rare bass solo from the virtuosic Will Lee, who anchors the band firmly throughout the session. Some Skunk Funk is played (in Randy’s words) “as fast as humanly possible”, although all the musicians seem comfortable with this demanding tempo.

The recording of both CD and DVD is impeccable, but the sleeve-note is not entirely helpful. The personnel for the DVD is not listed on the sleeve. In any case, the sleeve-note and the CD personnel are almost unreadable, because they are printed on a black background.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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