Support All About Jazz

All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help
320

Michael Brecker: Pilgrimage

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Michael Brecker: Pilgrimage Michael Brecker's tragic death in January 2007, at the age of fifty-seven, robbed the world of perhaps the most influential saxophonist to emerge since the equally untimely passing of John Coltrane. It's easy to forget that he was one of the pop/rock world's most called-upon studio players, recording on hundreds of albums with artists including James Taylor, Paul Simon and Eric Clapton. But it's his prodigious body of work in the jazz realm that will be his most enduring legacy.

It's easy to want Pilgrimage to be one of Brecker's best recordings out of a purely emotional response to his passing. While the knowledge that this is his final recording creates an unassailable sense of loss, the fact remains that the writing on Pilgrimage stands as some of his best, and if he was in a weakened state you'd never know it. Brecker sounds as strong as he ever did—stronger, in fact.

For this last session Brecker called upon old friends—guitarist Pat Metheny, bassist John Patitucci, drummer Jack DeJohnette and pianist Herbie Hancock (who plays on four tracks). He also collaborates, for the first time, with pianist Brad Mehldau on five tracks. That Hancock and Mehldau are vastly different players is an understatement; yet Pilgrimage remains cohesive and focused, with both players bringing their own inimitable strengths to the material.

Brecker's unmistakable writing style stems, at times, from a post-Coltrane modality, but there's a greater complexity and distinctive language. Solo space abounds, but Brecker's ambitious writing is longer-form, with all manner of twists and turns that bring out some of the best performances on record from everyone involved. When DeJohnette takes one of his most energetic solos on the rhythmically and harmonically shifting "Anagram, it's over a metrically challenging piano/bass ostinato that ultimately turns contrapuntal when Metheny and Brecker reenter.

"Tumbleweed, with Metheny's signature synth tone, bears comparison to the guitarist's own "Song for Bilbao in that it's an altered blues (also featuring a surprisingly funky solo from Mehldau), while the slinky groove of "Loose Threads finds Hancock straddling the line between greater abstraction and more grounded soulfulness. Metheny seems to be inspired towards greater risks, with some of his most evocative playing in recent years.

Brecker takes the first solo on the opening salvo of "The Mean Time, quickly dispensing with any notion that illness had compromised the visceral power that was a defining characteristic of his playing. "When Can I Kiss You Again? may be a slow tempo tune with softer edges, but Brecker manages to mine surprising depths of emotion here as well.

They say that music has healing power. It may not have been able to prevent the inevitable with Brecker's illness; but for brief time, a scant five months before his death, it's clear that music gave him the strength to record a watershed album that represents a remarkable end to an equally extraordinary musical life.


Track Listing: The Mean Time; Five Months from Midnight; Anagram; Tumbleweed; When Can I Kiss You Again?; Cardinal Rule; Half Moon Lane; Loose Threads; Pilgrimage.

Personnel: Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone, EWI; Pat Metheny: guitars; Herbie Hancock: piano (1, 5, 6, 9); Brad Mehldau: piano (2-4, 6, 7); John Patitucci: bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Heads Up International | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
Rediscovery
Multiple Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Live in Helsinki 1995
Live in Helsinki 1995
Random Act Records
2015
buy
[no cover]
Two Blocks From The...
Creative Sources
2007
buy
[no cover]
The Tales From The...
Creative Sources
2007
buy
Pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
Heads Up International
2007
buy
Michael Brecker: Pilgrimage
Michael Brecker:...
Heads Up International
2007
buy
Wide Angles
Wide Angles
Verve Music Group
2003
buy
Pat Metheny Pat Metheny
guitar
Chick Corea Chick Corea
piano
Sonny Rollins Sonny Rollins
saxophone
Kenny Garrett Kenny Garrett
sax, alto
Wayne Shorter Wayne Shorter
saxophone
John Scofield John Scofield
guitar
Chris Potter Chris Potter
reeds
Joshua Redman Joshua Redman
saxophone
Joe Henderson Joe Henderson
sax, tenor
Randy Brecker Randy Brecker
trumpet
Branford Marsalis Branford Marsalis
saxophone
Bob Mintzer Bob Mintzer
saxophone

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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