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Randy Brecker: RandyPOP!

Dan Bilawsky By

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This album gives new meaning to the idea of rewriting history. Before trumpeter Randy Brecker had ascended to the top rung on the jazz ladder he was making his mark as a hired gun in studios and on stages. His horn can be heard on numerous classic recordings, including those of James Brown, Donald Fagen, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, and, of course, Blood, Sweat & Tears. Now, just as Brecker is about to enter the septuagenarian club, he's taken an opportunity to revisit some of the songs he originally appeared on, using pianist Kenny Werner's arrangements/derangements as a way to look at history anew.

The music presented on RandyPOP! was recorded live at New York's Blue Note, and it finds Brecker and Werner working alongside an intergenerational outfit containing many a notable name. Brecker's daughter, Amanda, serves as the vocal front woman, modern-day guitar luminary Adam Rogers adds some timbral variety to the mix, saxophonist David Sanchez matches Brecker in intensity and inventiveness, and the low-end team of bass bigwig John Patitucci and drummer Nate Smith keeps things grooving.

The album opens with three lengthy tracks that account for almost half of its running time. Fagen's "New Frontier" comes first, retaining the original version's somewhat slick qualities and benefitting from funky and gritty enhancements. The Bette Midler-associated "Let Me Just Follow Behind" follows, giving Amanda Brecker a chance to reprise The Divine Miss M's role before Werner explores the song's interior. Sanchez then soars over the rhythm section and Randy Brecker lets loose with some effects-laden trumpet pyrotechnics, eventually passing the baton back to his daughter. And finally, looking at the last part of this album-opening triptych, there's a metrically-revised version of Al Kooper's "I Can't Quit Her," a song which appeared on Blood, Sweat, & Tears' Child Is Father To The Man (Columbia, 1968).

As the album moves on, the band visits semi-balladic territory with Todd Rungren's "Hello It's Me," keeps the reggae feel of Garland Jeffreys' "Ghost Writer" while upping the tempo and energy from the original, and delivers a pair of concise numbers from The Godfather Of Soul—"Think!," reimagined here as a quickly passing experiment marrying avant-garde exploration and beat poet lyric delivery, and "I've Got A Bag Of My Own," appropriately funky yet slightly warped in its new form. Then everything comes to an end with a Joni Mitchell-tinged take on Springsteen's "Meeting Across The River," which finds Randy Brecker's muted trumpet providing obbligato behind his daughter's vocals, and a version of Simon's immortal "Late In The Evening" that dispenses with its signature Steve Gadd Mozambique groove in favor of something greasier.

This band is clearly having a ball throughout this engagement, and the enthusiasm they project is contagious. Some wet blankets may be dissatisfied for one reason or another (i.e. Randy Brecker's vocal work, his use of effects on his horn, etc.), but the fun factor here is undeniable.

Track Listing: New Frontier; Let Me Just Follow Behind; I Can't Quit Her; Hello It's Me; Ghost Writer; Think!; I've Got A Bag Of My Own; Meeting Across The River; Late In The Evening.

Personnel: Randy Brecker: trumpet, effects, vocals; Kenny Werner: piano, keyboards; David Sanchez: tenor saxophone; Amanda Brecker: vocals; Adam Rogers: guitar; John Patitucci: bass; Nate Smith: drums.

Title: RandyPOP! | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Piloo Records and Productions LLC

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