Randy Brecker: 34th N Lex (2003)
Quick and to the Point: No need to preach to the choir: if you are into Brecker, go right at it. Otherwise, read on...
The title cut on 34th N Lex teases the listener in Cuberizing his or her feet and shoulders on an electronic rhythmic bedrock that supports a neo-funkification of Ronnie Cuber’s baritone, trading against Michael Brecker’s tenor, with David Sanborn on alto. It grooves with opportune touches from Adam Rogers’ guitar and fluttering muted sounds from Randy Brecker's horn. You have arrived to 34th N Lex.
Following Brecker’s contemporary tinged parlance, his gifts are often muted and hooky-restrained, but he still monsters the trumpet around. The group swings on the bluesy-peppered “Shanghigh,” where Rogers’ mossy strumming rounds up a tight –almost acoustic– ensemble supporting Brecker with yummy piano solo and accompaniment from George Whitty –the recording’s main producer. “All 4 Love” is Brecker’s inroad into the smoothed jazz morass. In that context, it might work. It’s gimmicky to me, in spite of the clearly engaging and solid soloing from all concerned. Hell, Brecker burns on it, but nah...
“Let It Go” features a brassed elegant nastiness with a felicitous engagement in trumpet playing that stays clearly toned, fast, rhythmic and smart. On “Foregone Conclusion” matters become floaty and ethereal, and both Breckers do as expected. Indeed, the rest of the production relies on Michael's role as a vertebra for the group. “Hula Dula” is percussively driven with Cuber and Brecker fronting the heat with bravura, power, range and cojones. A dedication to Bob Berg allows Sanborn to speak well on altoand, well, you must listen to it, right?
However, one doesn’t need to fetishize jazz’s tradition –à la Wynton and Crouch– to the point of becoming a musical/cultural Luddite to mind the electronica and programming in 34th N Lex. Techno matters notwithstanding, the effort remains conceptually cohesive and perhaps even demands such effects and coloring. My bid remains on “Tokyo Freddie,” the only acoustic piece. Then again, I guess the question is: why limit one’s vocabulary?
Guitarist Adam Rogers doesn't get credit on "Tokyo Freddie" and trombonist Michael Davis is credited as a participating musician on the back cover, although his role is not specified inside.
Track Listing: 1. 34th N Lex (R. Brecker) 2. Streeange (R. Brecker) 3. Shanghigh (R. Brecker) 4. All 4 Love (G. Haase, J Phoenix & R. Brecker) 5. Let It Go (R. Brecker) 6. Foregone Conclusion (R. Brecker) 7. Hula Dula (R. Brecker) 8. The Fisherman (R. Brecker) 9. Give It Up (R. Brecker) 10. Tokyo Freddie (R. Brecker) 11. The Castle Rocks (R. Brecker)
Personnel: Randy Brecker: Trumpet & flugelhorn (6). Michael Brecker: Tenor Sax (1-3,5-11). David Sanborn: Alto sax (1,5,7,8). Ronnie Cuber: Baritone sax (1,5,7). Ada Roviatti: Tenor sax (11). Trombone: Fred Wesley (3,5,9,10) & Michael Davis. Guitar: Adam Rogers (1-3,5-9) & Chris Taylor (2). Bass: Chris Minh Doky (1,3,6,7,10). Bass, keyboards, guitar and percussion programming: Gary Haasse (2,4,9). Drums, keyboards, bass & percussion programming: George Whitty (1-3,5-8,10,11). Drums: Clarence Penn (3,6,10). Drum Programming: Zach Danziger (2,4,9). Voice: Makeeba Mooncycle (2). Vocals: J. Phoenix (4).