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CD/LP/Track Review

Chuck Owen & The Jazz Surge: The Comet's Tail: Performing the Compositions of Michael Brecker (2009)

By Published: October 29, 2009
Chuck Owen & The Jazz Surge: The Comet's Tail: Performing the Compositions of Michael Brecker What better way to commemorate Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
1949 - 2007
sax, tenor
than with a CD by a hard-driving big band playing his compositions. Brecker, the great tenor saxophonist died in 2007. His music and talent will be long remembered, and Chuck Owen & the Jazz Surge have put together a wonderful selection of arrangements, starring some of today's best of players.

Owen, University of South Florida jazz composition professor, conceived this project in conjunction with USF. Owen says that the goal was re-envisioning Brecker's work through the eyes of various arrangers, including Brecker's frequent collaborators Gil Goldstein

and Vince Mendoza
Vince Mendoza
Vince Mendoza

band/orchestra
. Owen, himself, was a major contributor, along with Vancouver composer Fred Stride.

For its second recording, joining the talented 17-piece Surge orchestra on various numbers are special guests Randy Brecker

Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
b.1945
trumpet
, trumpet, Mike Mainieri
Mike Mainieri
Mike Mainieri
b.1938
vibraphone
, vibes, Mike Stern
Mike Stern
Mike Stern
b.1953
guitar
, guitar, Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
b.1946
saxophone
and Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
b.1952
saxophone
, saxophones. Little known violinist Rob Thomas is also a big presence. The numbers are long, about 10 minutes each, giving everyone a chance stretch out on solos. Most had shared the bandstand on numerous occasions with Michael Brecker.

Fittingly, the CD starts off with brother Randy Brecker soloing on "Peep," a sparkling arrangement by Stride. The sharp precision of the band is immediately apparent.

Owen's four arrangements are very impressive, beginning with his take on the popular "Itsbynne Reel," a surprising delight, formed from a traditional Irish reel. Thomas' violin is integral from the start as the piece moves toward a swirling climax—Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
meets River Dance. Band members Jack Wilkins on tenor sax and LaRue Nicholson on guitar contribute wild solos in the free-for-all finale.

Thomas' violin again sets the tone for Owen's adaption of "How Long 'til the Sun," a soft mellow ballad, with Randy Brecker's lyrical trumpet and the band's layered brass shadings adding much to the indigo mood.

A real standout is Owen's quirky version of "Take A Walk." This begins with an animated musical conversation between saxophones, Lovano's tenor and Liebman's soprano. The title can be taken as an invitation or a put-down. About one-third in, Manieri's vibes joins the group. All happily converse musically until they seem to get perturbed, making for a hotly dissonant finish. This is high octane writing.

In Owen's take on "Everything Happens When You're Gone," Lovano, after a soulful start, really gets "amped" on tenor. On this, the band projects a big brassy Stan Kenton

Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
1911 - 1979
piano
sound. And, again, Thomas takes a hard-sawing solo.



The Comet's Tail truly captures Michael Brecker's genius, But, as well, it should be a launching pad, lifting recognition for the Surge band.


Track Listing: Peep; Slings and Arrows; Itsbynne Reel; How Long 'Til the Sun; Sumo; The Mean Time; Take a Walk; Everything Happens When You're Gone.

Personnel: Chuck Owen: conductor, arranger; Tami Danielsson: saxophone; Valerie Gillespie: saxophone; Jack Wilkins: saxophone; Rex Wertz: saxophone; Matt Vance: trumpet; Chad Shoopman: trumpet; Mike Iapichino: trumpet; Jay Coble: trumpet; Tom Parmerter: trumpet; Keith Oshiro: trombone; Tom Brantley: trombone; Jerald Shynett: trombone; Jim Hall: trombone; Per Danielsson: piano; LaRue Nickelson: guitar; Mark Neuenschwander: bass; Danny Gottlieb: drums; David Coash: percussion (3, 4); Randy Brecker: trumpet, fluegelhorn (1-4); Mike Stern: guitar (1-6); Rob Thomas: violin (3-5); Dave Liebman: soprano, tenor sax (5-7); Joe Lovano: tenor sax (7, 8); Adam Nussbaum: drums (6, 7); Lowell Adams: cello.

Record Label: MAMA Records

Style: Big Band



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