Michael Brecker Live at the Blue Note
A hook-and-ladder company is probably still working to put out the fire that Michael Brecker's quartet ignited last week at the Blue Note. For this six-night run the tenor titan stuck to the organ-driven format heard on his latest record, Time is of the Essence (Verve, 1999). But of the musicians that appeared on that CD, only organist Larry Goldings was on hand. Taking over on guitar from Pat Metheny was Adam Rogers, and behind the drum kit was Idris Muhammad, who handled duties that on the CD were performed by a rotating fearsome threesome - Elvin Jones, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and Bill Stewart.
Muhammad rocked the house. And not only did Adam Rogers outdo Pat Metheny by a considerable measure, he also blew his esteemed boss, Mr. Brecker, clear off the stage. Brecker came out kicking up dust on the opener, "Madame Toulouse," yanking double-time lines out of the horn that defied imagination. But when Rogers took his turn, he easily matched Brecker's velocity, then surpassed him in terms of rhythmic invention and melodic content. And every time Rogers took the spotlight, Idris Muhammad's pleasure was palpable. In fact, the inspired interplay between Rogers and Muhammad was what drove the show over the top, especially on the monster funk vehicle "Renaissance Man." When that tune ended, the band members looked around at one another, dazed, as if to say, "how did that happen?"
Brecker and Goldings varied the mood with a remarkable duet on "'Round Midnight." Monk's ballad is a daunting challenge for any tenor player, but Brecker did the tune - and himself - ample justice, especially on his imposing intro and cadenza. Goldings's solo reminded everyone why he's considered one of today's most innovative voices on the Hammond B3. His sonic creativity and harmonic expansiveness on the instrument are unparalleled.
The full quartet also swung the heck out of Pat Metheny's "Timeline" and closed with an "Autumn Leaves" that featured hot funk-to-swing segues, as well as a clever modulation on the second A section. Adam Rogers, the set's top dog, continued to dazzle the audience with his combination of stunning chops and astute musicality. The jazz-going public can expect to hear a great deal more about Rogers - after this high-profile gig, hopefully sooner, not later.