The Brecker Brothers: The Brecker Bros. - The Complete Arista Albums Collection

By Published: | 19,718 views
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

The Brecker Bros.—The Complete Arista Albums Collection The Brecker Brothers
The Brecker Bros.—The Complete Arista Albums Collection
Legacy Recordings
2012

When fusion first emerged in the late 1960s/early '70s with artists like trumpeter Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
, pianist Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
and guitarist John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin
b.1942
guitar
, the emphasis was on guitar and keyboard heavy lineups like Return to Forever
Return to Forever
Return to Forever

band/orchestra
and Mahavishnu Orchestra
Mahavishnu Orchestra
Mahavishnu Orchestra
b.1971
band/orchestra
, with an equally strong predilection for the intensity and volume of rock and a kind of thundering funk that was different than the kind of music coming from R&B and soul artists like Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
b.1950
keyboard
and Earth, Wind & Fire
Earth, Wind & Fire
Earth, Wind & Fire

band/orchestra
. Parallel to that, Weather Report
Weather Report
Weather Report

band/orchestra
began life as a more avant-tinged version of fusion, where the form was often free and, rather than relying on testerone-filled solos, operated in a sphere where, as keyboardist Joe Zawinul
Joe Zawinul
Joe Zawinul
1932 - 2007
keyboard
said, "Everybody solos, and nobody solos." Even when Weather Report began moving towards more groove-centric music with Sweetnighter (Columbia, 1973), freedom was still a fundamental, though by the time the group hit its biggest stride with Heavy Weather (Columbia, 1977), the group had morphed into one where form was paramount, even though interpretive collective soloing still took place within its more rigid constructs.

But in a certain part of Manhattan, something else was going on. Beginning in the late '60s, a collective of roughly 30 musicians moved from New York to Woodstock, including Mike Mainieri
Mike Mainieri
Mike Mainieri
b.1938
vibraphone
, the oldest of the bunch, already (shudder) in his early thirties. As the vibraphonist explained in a 2009 All About Jazz interview, they were ..." surrounded by rock and folk musicians." Coming together at a farm owned by Mainieri, this musical collective—including keyboardist Warren Bernhardt
Warren Bernhardt
Warren Bernhardt
b.1938
piano
, bassist Tony Levin
Tony Levin
Tony Levin
b.1940
bass, electric
, drummer Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
b.1945
drums
and guitarist {Bob Mann}}, Joe Beck
Joe Beck
Joe Beck
1945 - 2008
guitar
and David Spinozza—released one album, White Elephant (Just Sunshine, 1972), before largely imploding out of necessity, really, due to its sheer size, as musicians got involved in other projects and just plain moved on from the hippie movement that was already beginning to dissolve.

Two other members of Mainieri's musical commune were the brothers Brecker—trumpeter Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
b.1945
trumpet
and younger sibling, saxophonist Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
1949 - 2007
sax, tenor
. Both were already making some serious noise, together and individually. Beyond session work for everyone from The McCoys to Moby Grape, Randy had already garnered some attention for his work with pianist Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
1928 - 2014
piano
, organist Jack McDuff
Jack McDuff
Jack McDuff
1926 - 2001
organ, Hammond B3
and the Jazz Composers Orchestra, while Michael made his recording debut—and to some acclaim of his own—on Randy's first album as a leader, Score (Solid State, 1970). But something else was happening by that time in the pop world: horn-heavy bands were suddenly in vogue, with groups like Blood, Sweat & Tears—with whom Randy played on its debut, The Child is the Father to Man (Columbia, 1970)—Chicago, Ten Wheel Drive, If and The Flock (from whom McLaughlin would recruit violinist Jerry Goodman for the first Mahavishnu Orchestra lineup). Starting as a trio, singer Edward Vernon, keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Jeff Kent and bassist Doug Lubahn soon jumped onto the bandwagon with the two Breckers, guitarist John Abercrombie
John Abercrombie
John Abercrombie
b.1944
guitar
and soon-to-be-Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham
b.1944
drums
, forming the horn-driven group Dreams, which released a critically well-received if not commercially successful self-titled debut on Columbia in 1970.

While Dreams didn't fare particularly well, Columbia wasn't ready to give up on the group yet, and so with prominent soul guitarist Steve Cropper
Steve Cropper
Steve Cropper
b.1941
guitar, electric
, of Booker T. and the MGs fame, brought in to produce, a significantly revamped Dreams released Imagine My Surprise in 1972; imagine their surprise when Kent and Lubahn found themselves out, with bassist Will Lee
Will Lee
Will Lee
b.1950
and keyboardist Don Grolnick
Don Grolnick
Don Grolnick
1947 - 1996
piano
in, alongside trombonist Barry Rogers
Barry Rogers
1935 - 1991
trombone
, and guitarist Bob Suttmann replacing the departed Abercrombie. It may have been three years away from the release of The Brecker Brothers' 1975 Arista debut, The Brecker Bros., but the group was largely already in place—Randy and Michael Brecker, Grolnick, Mann and Lee. Only a couple more recruits were necessary: young alto saxophonist David Sanborn
David Sanborn
David Sanborn
b.1945
saxophone
, who was cutting his teeth with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters
1915 - 1983
guitar
and James Cotton
James Cotton
James Cotton
b.1935
harmonica
; drummer Harvey Mason
Harvey Mason
Harvey Mason
b.1947
drums
, soon to be fresh out of keyboardist Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
's more funk-driven Headhunters; and percussionist Ralph MacDonald
Ralph MacDonald
Ralph MacDonald
1944 - 2011
percussion
. a serious session ace, having appeared on records ranging from Nana Mouskouri and Shirley Scott
Shirley Scott
Shirley Scott
1934 - 2002
organ, Hammond B3
to Laura Nyro and Roberta Flack.



Dreams may have been a pop band and The Brecker Brothers unmistakably a jazz group, but there were plenty of connecting threads between the two. Dreams separated itself from most other horn-led groups of the time by emphasizing spontaneity rather than the rigorous horn charts of most other bands. Spontaneous arrangements were de rigueur, even as the group focused largely on song form. And working with Cropper on Imagine My Surprise had a longer-lasting influence on the two Breckers—and not just them. When The Brecker Brothers launched with its self-titled 1975 debut on Arista, there was no mistaking that it was, indeed, a jazz band, but one with an emphasis on soul and funk rather than rock and roll—the flagship for an unmistakably New York sound known as "uptown."

It was a sound which became even more prominent when artists like Sanborn and guitarist Steve Khan
Steve Khan
Steve Khan
b.1947
guitar
began releasing their own record—in the case of Kahn—by that time a member of The Brecker Brothers—going so far as to recruit the group almost en masse for his own 1977 Columbia debut, Tightrope and two follow-ups, The Blue Man (Columbia, 1978) and Arrows (Columbia, 1979), but flipping the Breckers' modus operandi to place his guitar front and center.

The Breckers weren't immune to the trends of the time, however, and so as the dreaded disco emerged as a dominant commercial force, so, too, were The Brecker Brothers encouraged to incorporate some of its elements, to varying degrees of success. But the core strengths of the band—the detailed, complex instrumental charts written largely by the two brothers (Randy first; Michael's aptitude for writing came a little later), the exceptional chemistry of literally every incarnation; and the remarkable frontline simpatico shared by siblings Randy and Michael (and, when it was a three-piece horn section, altoist Sanborn, too)—made every record a winner, even if some of there was some inconsistencies and some albums were absolutely better than others.

The group broke up after a string of six records on ex-Columbia mogul Clive Davis' fledgling Arista Records between 1975 and 1981, with Michael going onto a particularly successful solo career, but Randy and Michael reunited The Brecker Brothers again in the early 1990s for two fine albums—The Return of the Brecker Brothers (GRP, 1992) and Out of the Loop (GRP, 1994)—plus a couple of tours with a largely revamped lineup. Furthermore, Randy may have been the titular head of 2006's Some Skunk Funk (Telarc, 2006), a collaboration with Germany's WDR Big Band and orchestrator/arranger Vince Mendoza
Vince Mendoza
Vince Mendoza

band/orchestra
, but with Will Lee on bass, Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine
b.1954
drums
on drums, Jim Beard
Jim Beard
Jim Beard
b.1960
piano
on keys and Michael given second billing beneath his brother, it was essentially another Brecker Brothers reunion—and, tragically, the last one there'd ever be with both brothers, as Michael succumbed to a fatal blood disorder in January 2007, just two months shy of his 57th birthday.

Which leaves The Brecker Brothers' The Brecker Bros.: The Complete Arista Albums Collection, which collects all six of the group's recordings from 1975's debut to 1981's superb swan songStraphangin', with the added bonus of two albums previously only available on CD in Japan (other than a briefly released American compilation that collected eight of the two albums' total twelve tracks). Blue Montreux and Blue Montreux II, both released in 1979, documented a stellar performance at Switzerland's 1978 Montreux Jazz Festival under the moniker "The Arista All-Stars"—organized and led by Mike Mainieri and, in addition to the core group of Randy and Michael Brecker, keyboardist Warren Bernhardt., bassist Tony Levin, drummer Steve Jordan
Steve Jordan
Steve Jordan
b.1850
drums
and guitarist Steve Khan, also featuring guest guitarist Larry Coryell
Larry Coryell
Larry Coryell
b.1943
guitar
and bassist Eddie Gomez
Eddie Gomez
Eddie Gomez
b.1944
bass
on a couple tracks.

It's a spartan package: a clamshell box with the same design as all the box sets being released by Legacy Recordings through its online PopMarket store—with a booklet that, in addition to a detailed track and personnel listings, has only a single, two-paragraph intro by Randy, and each album housed in a mini-LP replication of the original vinyl releases. But what's most important is the music, and if one thing becomes absolutely crystal clear after digesting nearly six hours of vintage Brecker Brothers, it's just how important and influential both the group—and the many players who passed through its doors in its six years of life—would become. There's the occasional misstep to be found, but overall, this vintage soul-drenched, funkified and occasionally discofied collection of 59 songs on five studio and three live albums remains as fresh, invigorating and relevant today as it did nearly 37 years ago, when The Brecker Brothers' first incarnation, with Randy producing, stepped into New York's Secret Sound Studios to record an album that would forever change the landscape of jazz-rock fusion.

Enter The Brecker Brothers—The Brecker Bros.The Brecker Bros. (Arista, 1975) is as near a perfect debut as is likely to be heard anywhere. From the opening one-two punch of the up-tempo "Some Skunk Funk" and greasier "Sponge," a number of Brecker Brothers markers are already defined: forceful three-voice horn lines; guitar and keyboards support, both comping and providing additional counter-melodies; and unshakable, in-the-pocket grooves from bassists and drummers joined at the hip. This is rock-edged music to be sure, but it couldn't have come from anywhere else but a collective with a firm foothold in the jazz tradition. And when it comes to soloing, beyond the intrinsic virtuosity of everyone involved, this is a truly electric and electrified band, with Randy's first trumpet solo on "Some Skunk Funk" a searing, soaring exploration of melody and sound. Michael's opening salvo is more decidedly acoustic, but he's already in the process of formulating the signatures at this early stage (still in his mid-twenties), and it's abundantly clear that he's already a force with which to be reckoned; a player who will go on to influence both peers like Bob Berg
Bob Berg
Bob Berg
1951 - 2002
saxophone
and future generations of players like Chris Potter
Chris Potter
Chris Potter
b.1971
reeds
.

There isn't a single weak track in the bunch, and if Michael ultimately emerged as the more influential player, it's a curiosity since his brother has, in the ensuing decades, proven an equally distinctive and diverse player, as comfortable in the modal burn setting of saxophonist Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
b.1946
saxophone
's Pendulum quintet, heard on the high-octane Mosaic Select 32: Pendulum Live at the Village Vanguard (Mosaic, 2008), as he is exploring the music of Brazil on the Grammy Award-winning Randy in Brasil (MAMA, 2008). But if Michael's ultimate reputation was already being made at this early stage, it should not be overlooked that it's brother Randy who produced the record and contributed the majority of the music on The Brecker Bros., including some—along with "Skunk Funk" and "Sponge," the incendiary "Rocks"—that have joined the pantheon of modern-day classics. Even his vocal turn on "Oh My Stars"—looking for some radio play, no doubt—is unexpectedly good; he may not have a great voice from a technical perspective, but his singing oozes with uptown New York attitude, as does "Sneakin' Up Behind You," a jam-turned-song that, with Will Lee assuming the vocals, would have given Tower of Power a run for its money.

If the two vocal tracks on The Brecker Bros. both fit in perfectly with the band's New York vibe and do nothing to dilute the album's collective strength, Back to Back (Arista, 1976) unfortunately shifts the balance, with all but three tracks either featuring lead vocals or a group of background vocalists. The playing, under the covers, is as strong as ever, withChristopher Parker (soon to be a member of Stuff, with another Brecker Brothers alum, drummer Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
b.1945
drums
) assuming the drum chair vacated by Harvey Mason and guitarist Steve Khan taking over from Bob Mann.

Possibly one of the reasons for Back to Back being a less satisfying—and, ultimately, more dated—record is that Randy has relinquished much of the writing to collaborative pieces by various members of the band. It's no coincidence that the three strongest tracks on the record are those written by Randy—whose complex yet fiery "Slick Stuff" features set-defining solos from both brothers, but in particular Michael, whose muscular ability to navigate any set of changes with absolute aplomb was clearly growing in leaps and bounds—and Michael's compositional debut with The Brecker Brothers, "Night Flight," where guest percussionists Sammy Figueroa
Sammy Figueroa
Sammy Figueroa

percussion
and Rafael Cruz set a Brazilian tone before leading to a knotty head and a stunning and massive-sounding electrified solo from Randy. "Grease Piece" is a collaborative effort from both Breckers, Khan and David Sanborn—less complex and clearly stemming from a jam session but still grooving hard, with Lee playing some of his heaviest bass to date.

The Brecker Brothers—Don't Stop the MusicWith the advent of disco, and The Brecker Brothers playing on a host of pop, rock and disco sessions—a record featuring "The Brecker Brothers" in the personnel list by now an attraction unto itself—so it's no surprise, perhaps, that Don't Stop the Music should move in that direction, for better and for worse. The first Brecker Brothers record not produced by either Randy or the two brothers together, Don't Stop the Music was produced by Canadian Jack Richardson, a seemingly odd choice given his history producing groups like The Guess Who, Alice Cooper and Bob Seger. But if Don't Stop the Music has a handful of truly cringe-worthy songs, including the opening "Finger Lickin' Good," instrumental tracks like Michael's dynamic "Funky Sea, Funky Dew" balance things out, in this case featuring another explosive solo that demonstrates the saxophonist's growing strength across the entire range of his tenor, and an ability to be both sophisticated and visceral at the same time.

Randy's "Squids" is another highlight, and if Michael was, by this time, growing as a writer and establishing his own style, albeit one that fit tightly within the sibling chemistry of The Brecker Brothers, so, too, was Randy writing even stronger material, with the trumpeter's "Petals" a gorgeous yet under-the-covers-complex ballad featuring Randy at his most lyrical, while his "Tabula Rasa" closes the album on a more powerful note. And if Bob Mann was—and has continued to be—a terrific ensemble player, at this point in time Khan was a far more dominant player, with a clearer, more distinctive voice that raised the bar for the group.

Don't Stop the Music suffers from the over-production that was becoming endemic at the time, though the added horns and strings do work on tracks like "Petals." But it seems clear that even the Breckers were feeling a need to strip down and return to some of their more flat-out funk roots. The aptly titled Heavy Metal Bebop (Arista, 1978) was a welcome return to all-instrumental music; even the one vocal track, the opening "East River," dispenses with the disco beats and returns to some four-on-the floor funk that absolutely screams New York attitude.

The rest of the record is a live recording from My Father's Place in Roslyn, New York, and features a revamped and streamlined quintet lineup which includes drummer Terry Bozzio
Terry Bozzio
Terry Bozzio
b.1950
drums
, whom the Breckers met during their brief (and, apparently, unpleasant) tenure with guitarist Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
1940 - 1993
guitar, electric
in 1976, documented on Zappa in New York (DiscReet, 1978). If guitarist Barry Finnerty
Barry Finnerty
Barry Finnerty
b.1951
guitar, electric
was already demonstrating plenty of jazz cred, having recorded and/or performed with flautist Hubert Laws
Hubert Laws
Hubert Laws
b.1939
flute
, the Thad Jones
Thad Jones
Thad Jones
1923 - 1986
trumpet
/Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
1929 - 1990
drums
Orchestra and drummer Chico Hamilton
Chico Hamilton
Chico Hamilton
1921 - 2013
drums
, he was also the only one; Neil Jason was primarily a pop/rock bassist whose résumé included work with Canadian guitarist Domenic Troiano, singer/songwriter Harry Chapin...even Kiss drummer, Peter Criss...though he did appear on trumpeter Don Cherry
Don Cherry
Don Cherry
1936 - 1995
trumpet
's Afro-centric Hear & Now (Atlantic, 1976). Bozzio, at this point, had spent almost all his time visible with Zappa, other than a session date on 10cc's Deceptive Bends (Mercury, 1977); still, navigating Zappa's sometimes impenetrably dense music (like Zappa in New York's aptly titled "Black Page #2") meant that he was a drummer ready for just about anything.

Randy's "Inside Out" opens the live set, a rocking blues announcing that The Brecker Brothers of 1978 had completely dispensed with any suggestions of either disco or over-production. Like Miles Davis, Randy added some keyboards to the mix, his electric trumpet matched in sonority by everyone in the band—even Michael, who's also credited as played "electric saxophone." If his extended solo on "Inside Out" is largely acoustic (only bringing in some filtering towards the end), it still burns with an electrified energy bolstered by a thoroughly nuclear band. Finnerty matches the Breckers note for burning note with an ability to, as the song's title suggests, take a simple construct and move from the inside to the outside and back again, with a heavily fuzz-toned guitar and the kind of rock-stance pyrotechnics that the Breckers had avoided...until now. The Brecker Brothers—Heavy Metal BebopFrom there things only get more intense, justifying the album title Heavy Metal Bebop. "Some Skunk Funk" is taken at an almost impossibly fast clip, as Randy's solo brings in more electronics than on past recordings—pitch shifting, envelope filtering and more—and if Bozzio's frenetically funky drum work is augmented by some post-production percussion from Figueroa and Cruz, Jason's bass work remains untouched, a combination of deft finger-work and some gut-punching, thumb-popping and palm-slapping. His résumé to date may not have suggested it, but here, Jason proves himself to be one badass mo'fo.' "Sponge" is also taken at a faster pace than on The Brecker Bros., a relentless traded off between Finnerty and the two Breckers, building to an exhausting but exhilarating climax. Despite all the high energy gymnastics, the quintet still proves capable of the more expansive dynamics of "Funky Sea, Funky Dew," closing with a take on "Squids" that rocks out even as it retains the Latin rhythms that are an equal undercurrent to the tune.

If some considered Heavy Metal Bebop to be excessive—and, to some extent, it was, but in the best possible way—then Détente (Arista, 1980) seemed like a step backward, to the more song-oriented approach of Back to Back and Don't Stop the Music. But with keyboardist George Duke
George Duke
George Duke
1946 - 2013
piano
producing—having crossed paths with the Breckers on drummer Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham
b.1944
drums
's Crosswinds (Atlantic, 1974) and with his own string of increasingly popular albums that moved from funk fusion to more straight-up R&B—The Brecker Brother finally had a producer who could successfully marry the group's instrumental proclivities with an interest in soul and R&B. For the first time, The Brecker Brothers wasn't really a group, though, as Duke recruited two different rhythm sections—bassist Marcus Miller
Marcus Miller
Marcus Miller
b.1959
bass, electric
and drummer Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
b.1945
drums
on four tracks, drummer Steve Jordan
Steve Jordan
Steve Jordan
b.1850
drums
and bassist Neil Jason on the remaining five—with keyboardists including Don Grolnick
Don Grolnick
Don Grolnick
1947 - 1996
piano
(a welcome return), newcomer Mark Gray and, of course, Duke himself, and a new cadre of guitarists including David Spinozza, Jeff Mironov and Hiram Bullock
Hiram Bullock
Hiram Bullock
1955 - 2008
guitar, electric
, If Détente was more heavily produced than The Brecker Bros. and Heavy Metal Bebop, refreshingly it wasn't over produced, making it The Brecker Brothers most successful commercial genre marriage, while still reaching Billboard's Top 20 Jazz Chart.

The grooves are deep, and with vocalists including Duke and Carl Carlwell (a tremendous session singer with Duke, Earth, Wind & Fire
Earth, Wind & Fire
Earth, Wind & Fire

band/orchestra
's Philip Bailey, Boz Scaggs and Elton John, amongst others, but who deserved the bigger place in the spotlight that Duke afforded him here), Duke still wisely balances the record more successfully, with just four vocal tracks—but each one of them a winner, as they still gave the Breckers some space, with Michael turning in a strong solo on the Earth, Wind & Fire-oriented "Not Tonight," while both brothers are given even more room on "You Left Something Behind," whose disco-traces don't show up until its final minute. And for his first lead vocal turn since The Brecker Bros.' "Oh My Stars," in addition to delivering a grittily muted solo, Randy's lead vocal on the greasy "Don't Get Funny With My Money" is just as good as (and more wryly humorous than) Duke's singing on "Ya Ga (Ta Give It" and Carlwell's soulful falsetto on "Not Tonight."

The instrumental tracks reflect continued compositional growth for both Breckers. "Tee-d Off," no doubt written for Richard Tee
Richard Tee
Richard Tee
1943 - 1993
keyboard
—with whom he'd intersected on sessions for singer/songwriter Paul Simon
Paul Simon
Paul Simon
b.1941
composer/conductor
, amongst others—reflects the now-deceased keyboardist's gospel tinges, while his "Dream Theme" is one of his most lyrical ballads to that point, proving that it wasn't all about muscular virtuosity; it was just as much about soulful attitude.

The Brecker Brothers—Straphaingin'While The Brecker Brothers' first three albums all received Grammy nominations, neither Heavy Metal Bebop nor Détente were given then same nod. Nor did Straphangin' (Arista, 1981), but for the Breckers' final recording as a group before reuniting again in the early 1990s, they once again stripped down to a lean, mean instrumental group and delivered their best record since their six year-old debut. With Gray back from Détente and Finnerty back from Heavy Metal Bebop, one of the biggest reasons for Straphangin''s success is its rhythm section. By this time, bassist Marcus Miller had already made a name for himself in the pop world, recording with Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Melba Moore and Joan Armatrading; in the jazz world, he'd established cred with The Crusaders, David Sanborn, Grover Washington, Jr.
Grover Washington, Jr.
Grover Washington, Jr.
1943 - 1999
saxophone
and Dave Grusin
Dave Grusin
Dave Grusin
b.1934
piano
in the lighter fusion that ultimately led to the genesis of smooth jazz but, in Miller's case, also led to a serious reboot of trumpeter Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
' career, writing, producing and, for the most part, playing everything on the now-classic Tutu (Warner Bros., 1985).

But at this point he was still on the upward trajectory, a hungry player who, combined with another up-and-comer, drummer Richie Morales (later to become the drummer for another fusion lite group, Spyro Gyra), kept the fire stoked in Straphangin's engine room, a collection of three compositions from Michael and four from Randy that rate as some of their best and most enduring. In Michael's case, two tunes—the samba-driven "Bathsheba" and modal-driven "Not Ethiopia" both hint at what's to come a few years later when the saxophonist launches his debut as a leader with Michael Brecker (Impulse!, 1987)

As for Randy, the title track begins with an odd fanfare before diving into one of his greasiest pieces of funk ever. The slower-tempo, gospel-tinged "Threesome" feels like something the Saturday Night Live band would play—and although brother Michael played in the band for some time in the 1980s, he never did. "Jacknife" starts out in electric territory, with Miller's Mu-troned electric bass setting the tone, but by mid-section the group is swinging in a way of which it was always capable, but which it had never actually done before, for both Randy and Michael's solo.

In fact, the album's greatest strength is that, while there's still plenty of electric energy to be found in Finnerty's overdriven guitar, Gray's Fender Rhodes and synthesizer, and Miller's electric bass, it's the most acoustic-sounding record of the group's career. It appears as if the Breckers have finally found a balance between the soul, funk and R&B that was one group of influences, and the more acoustic jazz tradition that formed another. By this time they'd recorded a couple of particularly outstanding acoustic dates with pianist Hal Galper
Hal Galper
Hal Galper
b.1938
piano
Reach Out! (Steeplechase, 1976) and Children of the Night (Double Time, 1978), while Michael's had participated on guitarist Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
b.1954
guitar
's destined-to-be-classic 80/81 (ECM, 1980) . Straphangin' puts what would turn out to be a temporary period on The Brecker Brothers' career until the group reformed again in 1991 for The Return of the Brecker Brothers (GRP, 1992), when the brothers Brecker returned to a far more electrified kind of energy, largely as an alternative to both players' more frequent work in acoustic environs in the years in between. But if Straphangin' were to actually be the group's last record, The Brecker Brothers would have gone out on a high note.

The Complete Arista Albums Collection includes two more recordings that, while not Brecker Brothers albums, certainly comfortably fit within its sphere. During this period, the Breckers opened a club in New York, 7th Avenue South, in 1977, closing its doors a decade later. Amongst the musicians who were regulars at the club were old friends, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri, guitarist Steve Khan and pianist Warren Bernhardt—Arista artists all. And so, in 1978 Mainieri instigated a group that would be called The Arista All Stars, featuring, in addition to these five artists, another friend from the White Elephant days, bassist Tony Levin (who'd soon desert jazz for greater fame and fortune with art rockers King Crimson
King Crimson
King Crimson
b.1969
band/orchestra
and Peter Gabriel), and drummer Steve Jordan. The resulting records, Blue Montreux and Blue Montreux II, both released by Arista in 1979, were never available in North America in full on CD—only an abbreviated RCA/Bluebird compilation of the two albums was briefly available in 1990). Added to the core group were guest guitarist Larry Coryell
Larry Coryell
Larry Coryell
b.1943
guitar
(another Arista artist) on two tracks and, on Michael Brecker's hard-swinging "Uptown Ed," acoustic bassist Eddie Gomez
Eddie Gomez
Eddie Gomez
b.1944
bass
, who'd crossed paths with many of these players in a variety of contexts and who would, with Brecker, Mainieri, Steve Gadd and Don Grolnick, soon form another successful group, Steps (quickly renamed Steps Ahead to avoid legal conflicts with a pop band also called Steps).

The Arista All Stars—Blue MontreuxThe set list of these two records—seven tunes on one, five on the other—includes a fiery version of Randy's "Rocks" on Blue Montreux, with Coryell a featured soloist after Randy and Michael trade-off to build the song to a fever pitch. Coryell also appears on "A Funky Waltz," which opens Blue Montreux II, a song written by drummer Alphonse Mouzon for The Eleventh House, another fusion group, and its 1974 Vanguard debut, Introducing the Eleventh House with Larry Coryell.

But it's the core group that makes the addition of these two records so welcome to this box set. Khan contributes the ethereal ballad "Candles," from 1978's Arrows (Columbia), and a new tune, "Cloud Motion," that hints rhythmically at Khan's Latin proclivities to come. Randy Brecker's "Buds," too, grooves with a Latin vibe; a new tune that he'd not record on an album of his own until Into the Sun (Concord, 1995), but here features a lengthy trumpet solo and some empathic interaction with Bernhardt. From the keyboardist comes the title track to his soon-to-be-released solo piano recording, Floating (Arista, 1979), but here given a far more propulsive yet somehow, well, floating arrangement.

The rest of the material comes from Mainieri. Two are new for the date: the soft trio for vibes, piano and trumpet that closes Blue Montreux ("The Virgin and the Gypy"); and the same record's title track, a lightly funky tune featuring a tart solo from Randy and a lengthy turn from the vibraphonist that, in just three minutes, justifies why, as he explained in his 2009 All About Jazz interview, that "It was kind of an inside album that seemed to influence some people; I remember [vibraphonist] Joe Locke
Joe Locke
Joe Locke
b.1959
vibraphone
used to come hear us." Others, like "I'm Sorry" (a gospel-tinged ballad feature for Michael), the more fusion-esque "Magic Carpet" (with a set-defining solo from Khan), and "Love Play" all come from the vibraphonist's sadly out-of-print Love Play (Arista, 1978).

With Michael Brecker now gone and a Brecker Brothers tribute taken place in 2012 that was hopefully recorded—featuring Randy, together with The Return of the Brecker Brothers' guitarist Mike Stern
Mike Stern
Mike Stern
b.1953
guitar
, drummer Rodney Holmes, bassist Will Lee, keyboardist-producer George Whitty
George Whitty
George Whitty

keyboard
(another '90s-era Brecker Bros. alum), saxophonist Ada Rovatti
Ada Rovatti
Ada Rovatti

saxophone
and vocalist/keyboardist Oli Rockberger—Legacy's The Complete Arista Albums Collection couldn't come at a more appropriate time.

Tracks: CD1 (The Brecker Bros.): Some Skunk Funk; Sponge; A Creature of Many Faces; Twilight; Sneakin' Up Behind You; Rocks; Levitate; Oh My Stars; D.B.B. CD2 (Back to Back): Keep It Steady (Brecker Bump); If You Wanna Boogie...Forget It; Lovely Lady; Night Flight; Slick Stuff; Dig a Little Deeper; Grease Piece; What Can a Miracle Do; I Love Wastin' Time With You. CD3 (Don't Stop the Music): Finger Lickin' Good; Funky Sea, Funky Dew; As Long as I've Got Your Love; Squids; Don't Stop the Music; Petals; Tabula Rasa. CD4 (Heavy Metal Bebop): East River; Inside Out; Some Skunk Funk; Sponge; Funky Sea, Funky Dew; Squids. CD5 (Détente): You Ga (Ta Give It); Not Tonight; Don't Get Funny With My Money; Tee'd Off; You Left Something Behind; Squish; Dream Theme; Baffled; I Don't Know Either. CD6 (Straphangin'):Straphangin'; Threesome; Bathsheba; Jacknife; Why Can't I Be There; Not Ethiopia; Spreadeagle. CD7 (Blue Montreux): Blue Montreux; Rocks; I'm Sorry; Magic Carpet; Buds; Floating; The Virgin and the Gypsy. CD8 (Blue Montreux II): A Funky Waltz; Candles; Uptown Ed; Love Play; Cloud Motion.

Personnel: CD1 (The Brecker Bros.): Randy Brecker: trumpet, electric trumpet, flugelhorn, vocal (8); Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone; David Sanborn: alto saxophone; Don Grolnick: keyboards; Bob Mann: guitar; Will Lee: electric bass, vocal (5); Harvey Mason: drums; Ralph MacDonald: percussion; Christopher Parker: additional drums (5). CD2 (Back to Back): Randy Brecker: trumpet, electric trumpet, flugelhorn, vocal (8); Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone, flute; David Sanborn: alto saxophone; Don Grolnick: keyboards; Steve Khan: guitar; Will Lee: electric bass, lead vocal, background vocals (9); Christopher Parker: drums; Ralph MacDonald: percussion; David Whitman: synthesizer programming; Luther Vandross: background vocals (1-3, 7, 9), background vocal arranger; Lew Del Gatto: baritone saxophone (2); Steve Gadd: drums (4, 9)); Sammy Figueroa: percussion (4); Rafael Cruz: percussion (4); Dave Friedman: marimba (6); Patti Austin: background vocals (9); Allee Willis: background vocals (9); Robin Clark: background vocals (1-3, 7); Diane Sumler: background vocals (1-3, 7). CD3 (Don't Stop the Music): Randy Brecker: trumpet, electric trumpet, flugelhorn, vocal (8); Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone, flute; David Sanborn: alto saxophone; Don Grolnick: keyboards; Steve Khan: electric guitar, 12-string guitar; Will Lee: electric bass, lead vocal, background vocals (1, 5); Christopher Parker: drums; Ralph MacDonald: percussion; Doug Riley: keyboards, horn and string arrangements; Christine Faith: background vocals (1, 5); Josh Brown: background vocals (1, 5); Doug Billard: background vocals (3); Beverly Billard: background vocals (3); Jerry Friedman: guitar (1), electric piano (5); Sandy Torano: guitar (1); Hiram Bullock: guitar (2-4, 6); Steve Gadd: drums (4, 6); Lenny White: drums (7); Sammy Figueroa: congas (7). Horn Section: Alan Rubin: trumpet; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone; Lou Marini: alto saxophone; Lew Del Gatto: baritone saxophone; Barry Rogers: trombone; David Taylor: bass trombone. String Section: Aaron Rosand: violin; Guy Lumia: violin; Paul Gershman: violin; Harry Lookofsky: violin; Sanford Allen: violin; Ariana Bronne: violin; Harold Kohon: violin; Matthew Raimondi: violin;; Peter Dimitriades: violin; Lamar Alsop: viola; Richard Maximoff: viola; Alfred Brown: viola; Jesse Levy: cello; Richard Locker: cello. CD4 (Heavy Metal Bebop): Randy Brecker:, electric trumpet, keyboards, handclaps (1); Michael Brecker: electric tenor saxophone, handclaps (1); Barry Finnerty: guitar, Guitarorganizer, background vocal; Neil Jason: bass, lead vocal (1); Terry Bozzio: drums, background vocal; Sammy Figueroa: percussion; Rafael Cruz: percussion; Paul Schaeffer: Fender Rhodes piano (1); Alan Schwartzberg: drums (1); Kash Monet: percussion (1), background vocal (1), handclaps (1); Victoria: tambourine (1); Jeff Schoen: background vocal; Roy Herring: background vocal; Bob Clearmountain: handclaps (1); various friends: handclaps (1). CD5 (Détente): Randy Brecker: trumpet (1-9), lead vocal (1, 3), handclaps (1, 3), arrangement (1-6, 8), flugelhorn (2, 5, 8, 9), Prophet 5 (3); Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone (1-9), flute (2, 5), handclaps (1, 3), arrangement (1-6, 7, 9); Don Grolnick: Yamaha CP70 (1, 2), Fender Rhodes electric piano (7); David Spinozza: guitar (1-3, 7); Jeff Mironov: guitar (1-3, 7); Marcus Miller: bass (1, 2, 7); Steve Gadd: drums (1-3, 7); Paulinho DaCosta: percussion (1, 3); George Duke: lead vocal (1), clavinet (2), background vocal (2), Yamaha CP 70 (3), Prophet 5 (4, 8, 9), Oberheim 4-Voice Polyphonic synthesizer (6); Carl Carlwell: lead vocal (1, 2), handclaps (1, 3), background vocal (2); D.J. Rogers: lead vocal (1), vocal adlib (1); Luther Vandross: background vocal (1, 3, 5), group vocal arrangement (3); Utlanda McCullough: background vocal (1, 3, 5); Fonzi Thornton: background vocal (1, 3, 5); Paulette McWilliams: background vocal (1, 3, 5); Irene Cara: background vocal (1, 3, 5); Sue Ann Carlwell: handclaps, background vocal (2); Erik "Igor" Zobler: handclaps (1); Neil Jason: bass (2, 4, 5, 8, 9); Ralph McDonald: percussion (2, 5, 7); Bill Reichenbach: handclaps (3); Mark Gray: Fender Rhodes electric piano (4-6, 8, 9); Hiram Bullock: guitar (4-6, 8), 9; Steve Jordan: drums (4-6, 8, 9); Airto: percussion (6, 8, 9). CD6 (Straphangin'): Randy Brecker: trumpet, flugelhorn; Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone; Mark Gray: keyboards; Barry Finnerty: guitar; Marcus Miller: bass; Richie Morales; drums; Sammy Figueroa: percussion (1, 3, 4, 5, 7); Manolo Badrena: percussion (1, 3, 4, 5, 7); Don Alias: percussion (6); Neil Jason: bass (7); Steve Jordan: drums (7); Airto: percussion (7). CD7 (Blue Montreux): Randy Brecker: trumpet (1-3, 5-7); Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone (1-6); Warren Bernhardt: piano (1, 3-7), Fender Rhodes electric piano (1), keyboards (2-6); Mike Mainieri: vibes (1-4, 6, 7), synthe-vibe (4), percussion (1, 2, 5); Steve Khan: guitar (1-6), Larry Coryell: guitar (2); Tony Levin: bass (1-3, 5, 6), stick bass (4); Steve Jordan: drums (1-6). CD8 (Blue Montreux II): Randy Brecker: trumpet (1, 5); Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone (1,3, 5), soprano saxophone (2); Warren Bernhardt: piano (3, 4), keyboards (1, 2, 4, 5), MiniMoog (4); Mike Mainieri: electric vibes (2-5), synthe-vibe (4), percussion (2); Steve Khan: electric guitar (1, 2, 4, 5), Larry Coryell: electric guitar (1); Tony Levin: electric bass (2, 4, 5), electric stick (1); Steve Jordan: drums; Eddie Gomez: acoustic bass (3).

Track Listing: CD1 (The Brecker Bros.): Some Skunk Funk; Sponge; A Creature of Many Faces; Twilight; Sneakin' Up Behind You; Rocks; Levitate; Oh My Stars; D.B.B. CD2 (Back to Back): Keep It Steady (Brecker Bump); If You Wanna Boogie…Forget It; Lovely Lady; Night Flight; Slick Stuff; Dig a Little Deeper; Grease Piece; What Can a Miracle Do; I Love Wastin' Time With You. CD3 (Don't Stop the Music): Finger Lickin' Good; Funky Sea, Funky Dew; As Long as I've Got Your Love; Squids; Don't Stop the Music; Petals; Tabula Rasa. CD4 (Heavy Metal Bebop): East River; Inside Out; Some Skunk Funk; Sponge; Funky Sea, Funky Dew; Squids. CD5 (Détente): You Ga (Ta Give It); Not Tonight; Don't Get Funny With My Money; Tee'd Off; You Left Something Behind; Squish; Dream Theme; Baffled; I Don't Know Either. CD6 (Straphangin'):Straphangin'; Threesome; Bathsheba; Jacknife; Why Can't I Be There; Not Ethiopia; Spreadeagle. CD7 (Blue Montreux): Blue Montreux; Rocks; I'm Sorry; Magic Carpet; Buds; Floating; The Virgin and the Gypsy. CD8 (Blue Montreux II): A Funky Waltz; Candles; Uptown Ed; Love Play; Cloud Motion.

Personnel: CD1 (The Brecker Bros.): Randy Brecker: trumpet, electric trumpet, flugelhorn, vocal (8); Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone; David Sanborn: alto saxophone; Don Grolnick: keyboards; Bob Mann: guitar; Will Lee: electric bass, vocal (5); Harvey Mason: drums; Ralph MacDonald: percussion; Christopher Parker: additional drums (5).

CD2 (Back to Back): Randy Brecker: trumpet, electric trumpet, flugelhorn, vocal (8); Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone, flute; David Sanborn: alto saxophone; Don Grolnick: keyboards; Steve Khan: guitar; Will Lee: electric bass, lead vocal, background vocals (9); Christopher Parker: drums; Ralph MacDonald: percussion; David Whitman: synthesizer programming; Luther Vandross: background vocals (1-3, 7, 9), background vocal arranger; Lew Del Gatto: baritone saxophone (2); Steve Gadd: drums (4, 9)); Sammy Figueroa: percussion (4); Rafael Cruz: percussion (4); Dave Friedman: marimba (6); Patti Austin: background vocals (9); Allee Willis: background vocals (9); Robin Clark: background vocals (1-3, 7); Diane Sumler: background vocals (1-3, 7).

CD3 (Don't Stop the Music): Randy Brecker: trumpet, electric trumpet, flugelhorn, vocal (8); Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone, flute; David Sanborn: alto saxophone; Don Grolnick: keyboards; Steve Khan: electric guitar, 12-string guitar; Will Lee: electric bass, lead vocal, background vocals (1, 5); Christopher Parker: drums; Ralph MacDonald: percussion; Doug Riley: keyboards, horn and string arrangements; Christine Faith: background vocals (1, 5); Josh Brown: background vocals (1, 5); Doug Billard: background vocals (3); Beverly Billard: background vocals (3); Jerry Friedman: guitar (1), electric piano (5); Sandy Torano: guitar (1); Hiram Bullock: guitar (2-4, 6); Steve Gadd: drums (4, 6); Lenny White: drums (7); Sammy Figueroa: congas (7). Horn Section: Alan Rubin: trumpet; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone; Lou Marini: alto saxophone; Lew Del Gatto: baritone saxophone; Barry Rogers: trombone; David Taylor: bass trombone. String Section: Aaron Rosand: violin; Guy Lumia: violin; Paul Gershman: violin; Harry Lookofsky: violin; Sanford Allen: violin; Ariana Bronne: violin; Harold Kohon: violin; Matthew Raimondi: violin;; Peter Dimitriades: violin; Lamar Alsop: viola; Richard Maximoff: viola; Alfred Brown: viola; Jesse Levy: cello; Richard Locker: cello.

CD4 (Heavy Metal Bebop): Randy Brecker:, electric trumpet, keyboards, handclaps (1); Michael Brecker: electric tenor saxophone, handclaps (1); Barry Finnerty: guitar, Guitarorganizer, background vocal; Neil Jason: bass, lead vocal (1); Terry Bozzio: drums, background vocal; Sammy Figueroa: percussion; Rafael Cruz: percussion; Paul Schaeffer: Fender Rhodes piano (1); Alan Schwartzberg: drums (1); Kash Monet: percussion (1), background vocal (1), handclaps (1); Victoria: tambourine (1); Jeff Schoen: background vocal; Roy Herring: background vocal; Bob Clearmountain: handclaps (1); various friends: handclaps (1).

CD5 (Détente): Randy Brecker: trumpet (1-9), lead vocal (1, 3), handclaps (1, 3), arrangement (1-6, 8), flugelhorn (2, 5, 8, 9), Prophet 5 (3); Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone (1-9), flute (2, 5), handclaps (1, 3), arrangement (1-6, 7, 9); Don Grolnick: Yamaha CP70 (1, 2), Fender Rhodes electric piano (7); David Spinozza: guitar (1-3, 7); Jeff Mironov: guitar (1-3, 7); Marcus Miller: bass (1, 2, 7); Steve Gadd: drums (1-3, 7); Paulinho DaCosta: percussion (1, 3); George Duke: lead vocal (1), clavinet (2), background vocal (2), Yamaha CP 70 (3), Prophet 5 (4, 8, 9), Oberheim 4-Voice Polyphonic synthesizer (6); Carl Carlwell: lead vocal (1, 2), handclaps (1, 3), background vocal (2); D.J. Rogers: lead vocal (1), vocal adlib (1); Luther Vandross: background vocal (1, 3, 5), group vocal arrangement (3); Utlanda McCullough: background vocal (1, 3, 5); Fonzi Thornton: background vocal (1, 3, 5); Paulette McWilliams: background vocal (1, 3, 5); Irene Cara: background vocal (1, 3, 5); Sue Ann Carlwell: handclaps, background vocal (2); Erik "Igor" Zobler: handclaps (1); Neil Jason: bass (2, 4, 5, 8, 9); Ralph McDonald: percussion (2, 5, 7); Bill Reichenbach: handclaps (3); Mark Gray: Fender Rhodes electric piano (4-6, 8, 9); Hiram Bullock: guitar (4-6, 8), 9; Steve Jordan: drums (4-6, 8, 9); Airto: percussion (6, 8, 9).

CD6 (Straphangin'): Randy Brecker: trumpet, flugelhorn; Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone; Mark Gray: keyboards; Barry Finnerty: guitar; Marcus Miller: bass; Richie Morales; drums; Sammy Figueroa: percussion (1, 3, 4, 5, 7); Manolo Badrena: percussion (1, 3, 4, 5, 7); Don Alias: percussion (6); Neil Jason: bass (7); Steve Jordan: drums (7); Airto: percussion (7).

CD7 (Blue Montreux): Randy Brecker: trumpet (1-3, 5-7); Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone (1-6); Warren Bernhardt: piano (1, 3-7), Fender Rhodes electric piano (1), keyboards (2-6); Mike Mainieri: vibes (1-4, 6, 7), synthe-vibe (4), percussion (1, 2, 5); Steve Khan: guitar (1-6), Larry Coryell: guitar (2); Tony Levin: bass (1-3, 5, 6), stick bass (4); Steve Jordan: drums (1-6).

CD8 (Blue Montreux II): Randy Brecker: trumpet (1, 5); Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone (1,3, 5), soprano saxophone (2); Warren Bernhardt: piano (3, 4), keyboards (1, 2, 4, 5), MiniMoog (4); Mike Mainieri: electric vibes (2-5), synthe-vibe (4), percussion (2); Steve Khan: electric guitar (1, 2, 4, 5), Larry Coryell: electric guitar (1); Tony Levin: electric bass (2, 4, 5), electric stick (1); Steve Jordan: drums; Eddie Gomez: acoustic bass (3).

Record Label: Legacy Recordings


comments powered by Disqus
Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW

Enter it twice.
To the weekly jazz events calendar

Enter the numbers in the graphic
Enter the code in this picture

Log in

One moment, you will be redirected shortly.

or search site with Google