Randy Brecker w/Michael Brecker: Some Skunk Funk (Telarc)

breckerThe Breckers’ decades-long genre-encompassing journey includes sessions from Aerosmith to Charles Mingus and all points in between. They came of age at the crossroads of bop, rock, jazz, soul and fusion. They took it all in, and return the gift in this very engaging live performance recording. After some years’ hiatus from their successful partnership, the firmly established omni-bopping brothers reunited on a dazzling live set of totally dialed-in big band jams. This performance (in Leverkusener, Germany in late 2003) is a dream gathering of fusion comrades-in-arms. The auspicious project enlists the high-wattage talents of arranger/composer Vince Mendoza, the muscular WDR Big Band of Koln, and the spot-on rhythm section of drummer Peter Erskine and bassist Will Lee. The Telarc label bestows the high-tech touch of “multichannel super audio SACD” status. And really, it’s close to being there, providing you’re listening through speakers of moderate to better virtue.

The Breckers break out on eight original pieces by Randy, and two of Michael’s. The stylistic terrain ranges from Weather Report-inspired fusion, as on “Wayne Out” (an appropriate nod to Wayne Shorter), to solid, straightahead Ferguson/Kenton grooves with forays into swaggering large funk in a Tower of Power-meets-Space Arkestra vein. The versatile WDR Big Band manages to come off simultaneously sleekly futuristic and firmly traditional. Mendoza’s brass arrangements have plenty of punch and shimmer. Ballads are represented with the sweeping, lush, yet airily arranged “And Then She Wept” and “Levitate,” colored with haunting trumpet from Randy. Latin grooves abound too, with funky percussion provided by Argentinean Marcio Doctor. Doctor’s foxy conga soloing opens the final tune, Michael’s swinging, world-beat “Song for Barry” which also provides room for guitarist Paul Shigihara to stretch out pleasantly.

Michael’s strong tenor playing career was sadly interrupted not too long after this performance by unexpected serious health issues (he continues to be sidelined, battling the pre-leukemic disease MDS), adding a poignant note to this exuberant set. - Tali Madden

Mr. Madden escaped New York a few decades ago, and still misses his egg creams. Aside from a brief flirtation with the Desert Southwest, he's been damply ensconced for half his life in Portland, Oregon. The freelance writer has written extensively on blues and jazz for outlets including the late Blues Access magazine, contributed to the MusicHound Blues and Jazz album guides, and produced and programmed jazz broadcasts for public radio.

tmadden.jpg

Mr. Madden escaped New York a few decades ago, and still misses his egg creams. Aside from a brief flirtation with the Desert Southwest, he's been damply ensconced for half his life in Portland, Oregon. The freelance writer has written extensively on blues and jazz for outlets including the late Blues Access magazine, contributed to the MusicHound Blues and Jazz album guides, and produced and programmed jazz broadcasts for public radio.


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