Assembling fifteen top jazz musicians to play complex original material is risky business. The session could turn into a repetitive solo showcase or conversely lose its sharpness amidst overproduced arrangements. However, Wide Angles,
from tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, comes off as an adventurous presentation of new music in a format rife with possibilities. With a string section, English horn, bass clarinet, flute, French horn and oboe among the traditional big band mix of drums, bass and brass, Brecker keeps things amazingly focused.
Aside from the expected tenor wizardry, the Gil Goldstein arrangements and orchestrations give Wide Angles
its signature sound. Whether Brecker calls up Trane's spirit, as he does on "Brexterity," or voices the balladry of "Evening Faces" and "Angle of Repose," a host of orchestral nuances are cleverly and surprisingly brought to bear behind him. Plaudits should also go to first violinist and concertmaster Mark Feldman who, together with cellist Erik Friedlander, keeps the string section in check while creating a very rich backdrop that allows Brecker to strut his stuff. Brecker doesn't hold back and his sound is up-front with creative solos and his king-sized tone. Likewise, Iain Dixon turns in a stellar performance on bass clarinet blending perfectly with bassist John Patitucci on the very catchy "Broadband," the twists and turns of "Cool Day in Hell," and the sweeping "Scylla."
Brecker has produced a cohesive work that maintains a sharp jazz edge while availing itself of the wider angles available through orchestral instrumentation.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York
Personnel: Michael Brecker - Tenor Sax;
Robin Eubanks - Trombone;
Gil Goldstein - Arranger, Conductor;
John Patitucci - Bass;
Steve Wilson - Flute, Alto Flute;
Mark Feldman - Violin;
Erik Friedlander - Cello;
Joyce Hammann - Violin;
Lois Martin - Viola;
Adam Rogers - Guitar;
Daniel Sadownick - Percussion;
Antonio Sanchez - Drums;
Charles Pillow - English Horn, Oboe;
Alex Sipiagin - Trumpet;
Peter Gordon - French Horn;
Iain Dixon - Clarinet, Bass Clarinet.