Randy Brecker: Rocks

Chris M. Slawecki By

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The easiest answer isn't always the best answer, but sometimes it is. So it's both easy and proper to point out that trumpet and flugelhorn master, composer, and bandleader Randy Brecker was kind enough to simultaneously review his release with the NDR Bigband, the Hamburg Radio Jazz Orchestra, when he titled it Rocks.

Assembled for the recording studio after Brecker finished two acclaimed tours of Europe with the NDR Bigband, Rocks recapitulates tunes that Brecker has written through various different stages of his career with and without his late brother Michael; and also the three-horn frontline of the original Brecker Brothers Band, with David Sanborn returning on alto saxophone and Ada Rovatti (Randy's wife) picking up tenor and soprano sax for Michael, who passed in 2007.

"Rocks" featured Sanborn's alto on The Brecker Brothers' 1975 Arista debut, and this new version does too. Sanborn lights up first, starting riffs just behind the beat and then playing fast like he's catching up, building the feeling of racing as he's riffing, while Brecker's solo blows so many notes so hard and fast that they shred through their accompaniment. It seems unfathomable that Brecker can think of new notes, let alone play new notes, so damn fast. It's good to hear this one again!

"The Dipshit" goes back even further than the Brothers' recorded debut, to their days in the Horace Silver Quintet (as members of his 1973 touring quintet), and preaches the gospel of funk from its jazz pulpit. Drummer Wolfgang Haffner and the Bigband's pianist push and pull this sidewinding rhythm into a jumping R&B groove, where Sanborn jumps in like his alto's on fire and he's trying to blow it out.

"Threesome" (from Straphangin' [1980, Arista]) adds guitarist Bruno Müller as featured soloist to a gloriously unsteady blues wobble, with Brecker using his mute to making his trumpet howl and meow the blues, Sanborn crisply jumping into sharp, Junior Walker & the All Stars-style soul-jazz, and the NDR BigBand hammering it closed with a Kansas City blues riff that majestically brings Rocks all the way home.

Brecker also shares some honest commentary in his liner notes: "The situation of broadcasting in the USA is still frustrating: on the one hand, the smooth jazz radio and on the other hand, the puristic jazz radio. But between those two extremes there is nothing. If you don't cater to one or the other, then your music will not be played. I refuse to do that. I make my very own, eccentric music." Rocks is a perfect example of why Randy Brecker should keep on rocking.

Track Listing: First Tune Of The Set; Adina; Squids; Pastoral; The Dipshit; Above And Below; Sozinho; Rocks; Threesome.

Personnel: Randy Brecker: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Sanborn: alto saxophone; Ada Rovatti: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Wolfgang Haffner: drums. NDR Bigband: Jörg Achim Keller:conductor; Thorsten Benkenstein, Ingolf Burkhardt, Claus Stötter, Reiner Winterschladen: trumpet; Fiete Felsch, Peter Bolte: alto saxophone, reeds; Frank Delle, Björn Berger: tenor saxophone, reeds; Edgar Herzog: baritone saxophone, reeds; Dan Gottshall, Sebastian Stanko, Klaus Heidenreich: trombones; Stefan Lottermann, Ingo Lahme: bass trombone, tuba; Christian Diener: electric bass, acoustic bass; Vladyslav Sendecki: keyboards; Bruno Müller: guitar; Marcio Doctor: percussion.

Title: Rocks | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Jazzline Records

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