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Michael Brecker is said to be the most influential tenor saxophonist in jazz since John Coltrane. A thirteen-time Grammy award winner who has achieved numerous other honors, he was a fixture on the scene from the early 1970s until his death earlier this year. With his brother, trumpeter Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker performed with Horace Silver's quintet before the pair started their own fusion group, The Brecker Brothers.
Brecker later joined drummer Steve Gadd in forming Steps Ahead with vibraphonist Mike Mainieri. In addition to a successful solo career, Brecker has performed and/or recorded with contemporary jazz notables and rock acts including McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Steely Dan, George Benson, Aerosmith and Frank Zappa.
In spring 2004, Brecker was diagnosed with a bone marrow disorder. Despite an exhaustive search for a donor and a transplant, he died of leukemia on January 13, 2007. He was 57.
Before his passing, however, Brecker completed work on his final album, Pilgrimage. Backed by pianists Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau, Pat Metheny on guitar, Jack DeJohnette on drums and John Patitucci on bass, Brecker delivers a straightforward package of nine original songs.
The album takes off with "The Mean Time, a high-energy track that features Brecker and Metheny in a duet on the melody. His band mates show a little individuality while meshing well as a group. Brecker puts his tenor through some blistering paces before passing the lead on to Metheny. Later in the track, Hancock sizzles on piano while DeJohnette works over his cymbals.
Though mostly in the background, DeJohnette adds some punch to an already happening "Anagram, the longest track on the album. Brecker and Metheny share most of the leads and solos, but DeJohnette's adept play on the hi-hat, throwing in some snare and toms, puts it over the top. Mehldau also scores on piano.
One of the more adventurous tracks is "Tumbleweed. Melodic in places, free form in others, this track gives all the musicians time to shine. Patitucci is felt more on this song than most of the others. Brecker is clearly at the top of his game, both in composition and performance, and this track makes that statement quite clearly.
"Pilgrimage was the final song recorded for Brecker's final album, a fitting closer to thisthe first album comprised entirely of songs written by the artist. If you love a good tenor sax, or if you just like good jazz, Pilgrimage may be the ticket. It's seventy-five minutes of Michael Brecker at his best.
Track Listing: The Mean Time; Five Months from Midnight; Anagram; Tumbleweed; When Can I Kiss You Again?; Cardinal Rule; Half Moon Lake; Loose Threads; Pilgrimage.
Personnel: Michael Brecker: tenor sax and EWI; Pat Metheny: guitars; Herbie Hancock: piano (1, 5, 8-9); Brad Mehldau: piano (2-4, 6-7); John Pattitucci: bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums.