Able to successfully straddle the divide between mainstream jazz and its more commercial factions, Michael Brecker has had a successful run on Impulse since his self-titled debut in 1987. Now that the label has been swallowed up by the newly-formed conglomerate, the Verve Music Group, Brecker retains his contract and makes his debut on Verve with Time Is Of the Essence
, a smart package that will please his legion of fans and just might twist the ears of others in tune with Brecker's stellar sidemen.
A savvy decision in light of the current renaissance regarding the jazz organ combo, Brecker puts himself in the company of organist Larry Goldings. As a bit of added intrigue, he then decides to throw guitarist Pat Metheny into the mix, along with the alternation of drummers Bill Stewart, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and Elvin Jones on various tracks. This all pays off big time with a street-smart and generous set of originals provided by Brecker, Goldings, Metheny, and producer George Whitty.
Brecker and Metheny, of course, are no strangers, appearing on each other's albums a few times over the years. They voice lines together extremely well. A prime example of this is Metheny's "Timeline," which has a tricky off-beat syncopation to its melody, creating a beguiling tension that is amply fueled by Jones' incendiary drumming. Brecker's solos often rely on his commanding use of tonal manipulation, complete with the characteristic honks and wails. Much like the late Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Brecker's style is based on the idea that what's more important is not "what" you say but "how" you say it. As for the rotation of the three drummers, each one has his own way of laying down a beat, yet Stewart is more in-sync with Goldings as he's a regular member of the organist's group.
Nothing all that revelatory occurs here, but there's more than enough groove food to keep you hoppin'. There's also something to be said for a project of all- stars that comes off this well and without all the pretense that usually surrounds such events.