Randy Brecker's latest recordings are only mainstream because they are generously laced with R&B soul and multifaceted Latin funk. In all other aspects, Brecker, who performs with his younger brother Michael on the first album and saxophonist Bill Evans on the other record, is a jazz persona. Playing the trumpet with charming modesty and composing pieces with surprising introspection, Brecker demonstrates why he should be just as famous as his saxophone-playing brother.
Some Skunk Funk is perhaps the more revealing record, as it illuminates Brecker's movements and style. In 2003, he and Michael performed live in Germany with the WDR Big Band and he composed all but two of the songs on the recording. Though many of the songs (including the catchy fusion title-track, "Some Skunk Funk ) were from the '70s and '80s, when he and Michael were in Dreams, a short-lived band, and the Brecker Brothers, an emblematic jazz-fusion group, the atmosphere of this album is different from his second outing, a 2004 live recording with the rather cheesy title, Soul Bop Band Live.
On the latter album (the one with the tacky title), Brecker performs with Evans along with a crew of stellar players, including guitarist Hiram Bullock and drummer Steve Smith. A sampling of their European summer tour, the record is flavored with a particular ambiance. The musicians feel more experienced and are less eager to please the crowd. Rather, band members perform angular call and responses more for each other than for the audience.
Although Brecker's trumpet comes in with some excellent implementation, Evans and Bullock have more forceful moves. Soul Bop Band Live is less funk and more jazz-rock and Brecker seems to fit better as a trumpeter in the former style. However, when Brecker adds his vocals to the foray in the anti-capitalistic tune "Greed , he is magnetic; his voice is distinctive and it transmits to his trumpet-playing too.
Nonetheless, Brecker does come out stronger in Some Skunk Funk, the 'funkier' of the two records. Here, the entire ensemble has comparably more kinetic energy, due in part to the big band sound expertly arranged by Vince Mendoza. Moreover, when Brecker and his brother perform together, there is a subtle but clear difference in their dynamic. Every swinging tenor solo and climactic trumpet tremolo is laden with impressive effort. The Breckers try harder and they perform for their listeners. Consequently, the album is more satisfying. Furthermore, while both records are mostly comprised of lightweight melodies, Some Skunk Funk doesn't just reminisce about the past and celebrate life with champagne. The brothers round out the album with meaningful overtones in songs like "Levitate , an intense requiem that proves Brecker's magnitude as a trumpeter and "Song for Barry , a tribute Michael composed for Barry Rogers, their former Dreams trombonist. Some Skunk Funk is a better showcase of Brecker's commitment as a performer and ultimately is the superior of the two albums.
Tracks and Personnel
Some Skunk Funk
Tracks: Some Skunk Funk; Sponge; Shanghigh; Wayne Out; And Then She Wept; Strap-hangin'; Let It Go; Freefall; Levitate; Song for Barry.
Personnel: Randy Brecker: Trumpet; Michael Brecker: Tenor Saxophone; Jim Beard: Piano & Synthesizer; Will Lee: Electric bass; Peter Erskine: Drums; Marcio Doctor: Percussion.
Also featuring the WDR Big Band - Heiner Wiberny and Harald Rosenstein: Alto Saxophone; Olivier Peters and Rolf Romer: Tenor Saxophone; Jens Neufang: Baritone Saxophone; Andy Haderer, Rob Bruynen, Klaus Osterloh, Rick Kiefer and John Marshall: Trumpter; Dave Horler, Ludwig Nuss and Bernt Laukamp: Trombone; Mattis Cederberg: Bass trombone; Paul Shigihara: Electric guitar.
Soulbop Band Live
Tracks: Rattletrap; Big Fun; Above & Below; Let's Pretend; Some Skunk Funk; Greed; Soul Bop; Tease Me; Cool Eddie; Mixed Grill; Hangin' In The city; Dixie Hop.
Personnel: Randy Brecker: trumpet, vocals; Bill Evans: Tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Hiram Bullock: guitar, vocals; David Kikoski: keys; Victor Bailey: bass; Steve Smith: drums.