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Randy Brecker: Some Skunk Funk

Woodrow Wilkins By

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The Brecker Brothers burst onto the fusion scene in the 1970s. After many years of working separately, Randy and Mike Brecker reunited in the early 1990s. The brothers' affiliations—together or separately—have included Billy Cobham, David Sanborn, Steely Dan, Spyro Gyra, Carly Simon, Jaco Pastorius' Word of Mouth Big Band, Bruce Springsteen and Janis Joplin. Collectively, the Brecker brothers have won three Grammy awards—two for Randy's Into the Sun (Concord, 1997) and 34th n Lex (ESC, 2003), and one for the joint effort Out of the Loop (GRP, 1994).

On Some Skunk Funk, they're together again. Several of Randy Brecker's compositions are given new energy here, while other tracks represent some of the brothers' best work as a tandem. The core group consists of Randy (trumpet), Michael (tenor sax), Jim Beard (piano/synthesizer), Will Lee (bass) and longtime Brecker associate Peter Erskine (drums).

Some Skunk Funk features the Breckers in a live performance recorded in Koln, Germany, in 2003 with Germany's WDR Big Band. The album features eight Randy Brecker originals (including a new composition, "Freefall ) and two written by Michael Brecker: "Strap-Hangin' and "Song for Barry, the latter named for Barry Rogers, a trombonist who was part of the brothers' band. "Freefall is an old-school, swinging tune that features Randy in a high-speed lead, with solos by Erskine, Beard, trumpeter John Marshall and tenor saxophonist Oliver Peters. The other nine tracks are updates of previous recordings.

The title song, "Some Skunk Funk, features the brothers in blistering solos. Erskine, Lee and Beard also make their presence known as well. "Shanghigh and "Let It Go, both from 34th n Lex, were excellent studio pieces, but they're even better live. The former features solos by Randy, Beard, Erskine, guitarist Paul Shighara, altoist Heiner Wiberny and trombonist Ludwig Nuss. The latter features Randy, Beard and Nuss, along with Michael Brecker.

A percussion solo by Marcio Doctor introduces the last track, "Song for Barry. This ten-minute piece also features solos by Shaghira and both Breckers. Arguably one of the best songs recorded by the Brecker brothers, it is a powerful closer to this album. Lee, Erskine and Beard complement the soloists exceptionally well, as does the WDR Big Band. At about the 6:40 mark, Doctor, Erskine and Beard lay down the background while Randy Brecker takes charge, ultimately joined by the rest of the ensemble. The piece slows as Shaghira winds up for his solo. The delivery accelerates and leads toward a stunning conclusion.

While Randy Brecker is the frontman for this outing, Michael's blistering tenor solos highlight much of the album. The Brecker Brothers were a fusion band, but Some Skunk Funk shows another side of these musicians. In this big band setting, they are in perfect form. The original melodies are given their due, but the solos by Randy, Michael and other members of the band put this album over the top.

Track Listing: Some Skunk Funk; Sponge; Shanghigh; Wayne Out; And Then She Wept; Strap-Hangin

Personnel: Randy Brecker: trumpet; Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone; Jim Beard: piano, synthesizer; Will Lee: electric bass; Peter Erskine: drums; Marcio Doctor: percussion; the WDR Big Band: Heiner Wiberny, Harald Rosenstein: alto saxophones; Oliver Peters, Rolf Romer: tenor saxophones; Jens Neufang: baritone saxophone; Andy Hadere, Rob Bruynen, Klaus Osterloh, Rick Kiefer, John Marshall: trumpets; Dave Horler, Ludwig Nuss, Bernt Laukamp: trombones; Mattis Cederberg: bass trombone; Paul Shigihara: electric guitar.

Title: Some Skunk Funk | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Telarc Records

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