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Essential Michael Brecker

By Published: January 18, 2007
MB: Well, that's kind of hard to put into words; it's very difficult to describe someone's time-feel, but suffice to say that Elvin Jones is one of the living legends on the drums, and there isn't a drummer on the planet that hasn't been influenced by Elvin in some way. It was a great thrill to have him be present and participate-it was like a dream come true for me.

AAJ: I imagine you were influenced by him, growing up as a drummer, as you mentioned.

MB: Yeah. I listened to Elvin as I was coming up, and of course with the John Coltrane quartet, which was very, very instrumental and inspiring and it was really the group that propelled me into wanting to choose music as a livelihood, a life endeavor. So Elvin has been an idol of mine for years, and I had a couple of brief opportunities to play with him—the first one actually, was when I was fifteen and he came to play one weekend at a music camp that I was going to. But, it was great to have him on the record. We had a fantastic time, and he subsequently invited me to play with him at the Blue Note for his birthday celebration, which I did. We had a really wonderful time.

And then, you know, Jeff "Tain" Watts is one of the great drummers playing the instrument today, great jazz drummer. And, like Elvin, he has sort of invented his own language coming out of the tradition of all the great drummers; and he certainly is Elvin-influenced, but he's come up with really his own approach on the instrument-a very conversational approach, and a serious swing. I've been playing a lot with Tain over the past two or three years so we have a real chemistry, which is great.

And I'd been wanting to play with Bill Stewart for a long time, and I thought this would be a good opportunity since I had Larry Goldings on the record, and knowing Larry has such a great chemistry with Bill, I thought it would be a great idea to include Bill as well. I've been fascinated by Bill's drumming. He kind of came out of left field, and has really made his mark and become one of the great drummers playing today-a very original drummer—you never know what he's going to come up with. He's a real serious student of the instrument, and one of the most original drummers to come along in a long time. And also can really swing; that's the thing that connects all three of these amazing musicians.

So to describe their time-feel is a little difficult, and they do have three very different time-feels-again, it's hard to articulate. It's more of a thing that you want to leave to the listener.

AAJ: I'm curious about the recording. Was the band in one room or in separate rooms?

MB: We were in separate rooms, but separated only by glass. I like to record at this place called Avatar, which gives you fairly good separation but great visibility and you can hear everything really well.

AAJ: Elvin has his growl that he does. Do you remember hearing that as you were playing?

MB: Yeah, sure. That's a great sound. I love hearing that sound. It's almost the sound of the beat being subdivided.

AAJ: Yeah, those songs that Elvin plays on, I think, are my favorite.

MB: Thank you.

AAJ: You also have Larry Goldings on organ. Talk about what the sound of the organ brings, and makes you feel.

MB: Well, that's really the sound of Larry. (Laughter)

AAJ: The sound of Larry?

MB: Yeah, you know, I've always loved the organ, loved the tradition of the organ, but I never really had a desire to record or play with an organ until I heard Larry play. I just love the way he plays; I love everything about it. I love his sound on the instrument; I love his sense of time. He has amazing elegance, you know, and plays like a poet, and yet swings incredibly hard and has a lot of intensity in terms of tension and release built into his playing-a really remarkable musician. I've wanted a chance to record with him for quite a while now. I first heard him with John Scofield's band, as well as Bill Stewart, I heard them both when they first came out with Sco's band, and I flipped, of course.

AAJ: Yeah, I know as a bassist, I kind of dig hearing that organ-bass, you know?

MB: It's funny you mention—I mean I like it too and one of the initial decisions was whether to have Larry play bass, which he does great, or to have a bassist, and I decided to opt for Larry, partially because it was truer to the organ-trio tradition, but also I hadn't heard him do it—outside of his own records—I hadn't heard him do it that much on other records. I also wanted to experience what that was like, and I'm glad I did it that way. Because, weirdly enough, even though it's a more traditional sound, it felt fresher to me.

AAJ: And then Pat Metheny on guitar. I think he's just an incredible composer, and that song "Timeline ...

MB: That's a good one, isn't it?

AAJ: Yeah. Man, he really lays some stuff down there.

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