May 18, 2024

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CD review: The Brecker Brothers – Live In Tokyo 1995 – 2022: Video, CD cover

The Brecker Brothers was the musical duo of Michael (saxophone and EWI) and Randy Brecker (trumpet, flugelhorn), who recorded commercially successful jazz fusion albums together in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

They had a notable hit single with “East River” in 1979.

In addition to recording their own compositions, the brothers frequently played together as session musicians on albums of other artists. The two also had prolific recording careers separately.

Their collaborations came to an end, when Michael Brecker passed away from leukemia, 13th of January 2007.

The funk runs thick on this two-CD recording from a July 1980 performance in Hamburg, Germany, marking an especially exciting addition to The Brecker Brothers’ discography.

Live And Unreleased documents the most potent band coming out of the 1970s New York jazz-funk scene in a slamming performance that presents all six members – brothers Randy and Mike (1949–2007) Brecker on trumpet and tenor saxophone, guitarist Barry Finnerty, keyboardist Mark Gray, electric bassist Neil Jason and drummer Richie Morales – at the peak of their creative powers.

In true Brecker Brothers fashion, this iteration of the iconic fusion ensemble plays with extreme energy, exacting precision and audacious derring-do as the musicians rip through tight, angular arrangements of familiar fare like “Strap Hangin’,” “Sponge,” “Inside Out” and “Some Skunk Funk.” Every single note – and there are lots of them to enjoy here—is imbued with purpose and sizzle.

The softer, soulful side of electric jazz comes through as well, most prominently on the Mike Brecker-penned “Tee’d Off” and in mood-setting sections of “Funky Sea, Funky Dew” and “I Don’t Know Either.” And when it comes time for the cats to solo, watch out: Each of these fearless improvisors will set ears ablaze and brains awhirl.

It’s an adrenaline-fueled, electric adventure that will transport you back to a time of large, enthusiastic crowds in throbbing, sweaty venues, where the musicians on stage fed ravenously on good vibes emanating from a sea of humanity. Turn up the volume, close your eyes and prepare for a long, thrilling night with one of the most ass-kicking bands to ever play in concert.

And pay close attention to the bold choices made by Mike Brecker during his nine-minute unaccompanied solo on “Funky Sea, Funky Dew.”

The Brecker Brothers, throughout their twenty-year career, always embodied an interesting duality in their music. On the one hand, every member was accomplished in pop, funk, and R&B, performing on seminal albums with everyone from Frank Zappa to Parliament-Funkadelic. Their recordings are infused with a unique tightness of the horns and a deep groove, both of which became the group’s hallmarks. There was also their then-groundbreaking, now common, use of electronics on acoustic instruments like Michael’s saxophone or Randy’s trumpet. On the other hand, each of its members was fundamentally a jazz artist, playing with the complexity and feel of that style. This dynamic ultimately produced some of the best fusion recordings of the 1970s and 1980s. Live and Unreleased  (Piloo Records, 2020) showcases the group performing fantastically at Onkel Pö’s Carnegie Hall in Hamburg, Germany in 1980.

The sextet exudes energy and drive, making valuable statements in every solo as well as their tight connection as a band.  This is particularly true in their performance of the now-classic “Sponge”, in which the rhythm section of bassist Neil Jason and drummer Richie Morales vamp a hypnotic groove indebted to the funk rock of the late 1970s while leaving room for the rest of the ensemble to provide solos. Randy’s performance on this track particularly stands out, masterfully conversing with his brother’s tenor saxophone as they exchange licks. Both experiment effectively with pedal effects to provide nearly 10-minutes of continuous intensity, excitement, and ingenuity.

Another notable track is that of the band’s most popular song, the legendary fusion standard “Some Skunk Funk.” Here, it is performed at a substantially faster tempo than the famous studio version, with a heat and grit which arguably results in the piece’s best-recorded version. Jason’s solo utilizes the slap bass method, alluding to everyone from Jaco Pastorius to Bootsy Collins. The album also features “Funky Sea, Funky Dew”, another popular Brecker Brothers tune. Barry Finnerty’s guitar solo combines a modern tone with jazz chops, producing a sound not unlike John McLaughlin. Meanwhile, Michael Brecker’s fascinating solo morphs from jazz fusion into experimental music and back, using electronics to create the record’s best solo. Excellent atmospheric textures are additionally provided by the electronics of Mark Gray.

The closing compositions showcase the group’s ability to perform more accessible, pop-oriented originals with “East River” and “Don’t Get Funny With My Money.” The first is a delightful funk tune that engages audience members to sing along, providing the opportunity for some sheer fun. The second is a satirical song unique in the band’s repertoire but which similarly resonated with listeners. Although the Brecker Brothers sometimes faced criticism for their performance of seemingly more commercial pieces, both showcase the effectiveness of doing so when mixed with the more “serious” sounds of the evening.

1. Slang (9:55)
2. Spherical (15:38)
3. Harpoon (13:33)
4. Song For Barry (29:39)
5. Some Shunk Funk (8:21)

Randy Brecker trumpet
Michael Brecker saxophone, EWI
George Whitty keyboard
Dean Brown giutar
James Genus bass
Rodney Holmes drums

Amazon | Live In Tokyo 1995 | The Brecker Brothers | ミュージック | ミュージック

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