341

Michael Brecker: Nearness of You: The Ballad Book

David Adler By

Sign in to view read count
Michael Brecker: Nearness of You: The Ballad Book There comes a time, it seems, when every major-label jazzer has to add a ballads album to his or her discography. That time has come for Michael Brecker, who enlists the formidable Pat Metheny as both producer and guitarist. Along for the ride are three players you may have heard of: Herbie Hancock, Charlie Haden, and Jack DeJohnette. The 11 tracks (divided into two five-track "chapters" and a one-track "epilogue") are flawlessly executed—practically airbrushed—and as mainstream as can be, but darned if they don't raise a few goosebumps. Brecker is restrained and mellow-toned throughout, shelving some of his pet licks and pushing himself into more lyrical territory. Metheny's guitar work is exquisite, particularly on Hancock's "Chan's Song," which contrasts nicely with Jacky Terrasson's version on 1997's Rendezvous (Blue Note).

These aren't the ballads you'd expect, and that's primarily what makes the date work. There are two cuts from Metheny's 1996 album Quartet (Geffen), "Sometimes I See" and "Seven Days." There's also Brecker's "Incandescence" and "I Can See Your Dreams," the latter serving as the wistful "epilogue." Joe Zawinul's "Midnight Mood" is another unusual entry. The only standards are "Always," "My Ship" (Gil Evans's Miles Ahead arrangement, Gil Goldstein's adaptation for quintet), and "The Nearness of You," the last of which features James Taylor (!) on vocals.

Taylor's presence raises some interesting issues. His is not a jazz voice by any means, and in a way, that's what redeems his performance on "The Nearness of You." Cynics may lambaste his inclusion as a commercial ploy, and they may be partly right, but one thing's for sure: he puts his own stamp on the tune, preventing it from sounding recycled and retro. The same can be said for "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," which also features Taylor's singing. One could argue that Taylor is this track's saving grace. Without him, the group might have played the song as a boring, muzaky instrumental. Instead, we hear Taylor revisiting one of his own classics, rearranged as a jazz ballad. There's artistic merit there for sure.

Track Listing: 1. Chan's Song 2. Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight 3. Nascente 4. Midnight Mood 5. The Nearness of You 6. Incandescence 7. Sometimes I See 8. My Ship 9. Always 10. Seven Days 11. I Can See Your Dreams

Personnel: Michael Brecker, tenor sax; Pat Metheny, guitars, producer; Herbie Hancock, piano; Charlie Haden, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums; James Taylor, vocals (2, 5)

Title: Nearness of You: The Ballad Book | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Verve Music Group


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Thick as Thieves CD/LP/Track Review Thick as Thieves
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Dream Within A Dream CD/LP/Track Review Dream Within A Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Live At The High Noon CD/LP/Track Review Live At The High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017
Read As It Should Be: Ballads 2 CD/LP/Track Review As It Should Be: Ballads 2
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 21, 2017
Read Karoujite CD/LP/Track Review Karoujite
by John Eyles
Published: June 21, 2017
Read "Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite" CD/LP/Track Review Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite
by Jerome Wilson
Published: June 10, 2017
Read "It Will Come" CD/LP/Track Review It Will Come
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 16, 2017
Read "Sketches on the Radio" CD/LP/Track Review Sketches on the Radio
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 14, 2016
Read "Without All the Chatter" CD/LP/Track Review Without All the Chatter
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 7, 2017
Read "Another Time: The Hilversum Concert" CD/LP/Track Review Another Time: The Hilversum Concert
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 3, 2017
Read "The Final Concert" CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.