JJ 12/92: The Brecker Brothers – Collection, Volume Two + Return Of The Brecker Brothers

Thirty years ago Mark Gilbert thought not even the brothers themselves could surpass the epoch-making discoveries of their early work. First published in Jazz Journal December 1992

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After pursuing individual projects through the eighties, the Brecker Brothers are together again. BMG’s two retrospective collec­tions, overseen by the brothers, were the first signs of renewed activity, and they rather eclipse this year’s reunion session on GRP. Return is entertaining enough, but it has none of the sense of epoch-making discovery evident in the group’s seventies work.

The earliest tracks on Collec­tion/Volume Two are the better ones, including as they do the amphetamine-paced Rocks, and four storming cuts from the still extraordinary 1978 live album Heavy Metal Bebop. Solowise, Randy was at his peak, and Mike wasn’t far behind, as the preach­ing coda to Funky Sea exempli­fies. These tracks are perfect illustrations of the brothers’ sure grasp of polytonal harmony, densely syncopated funk and textural and dynamic variation, and present an excellent case for the prompt reissue of the entire Heavy Metal Bebop, digital remastering and all.

Nobody has quite followed the example of that astonishing music, not even the brothers themselves. There are some stir­ring moments on Return, notably in the stealthy hip-hop of Big Idea, which frames a well-paced Michael Brecker solo, and in the sulking Miles/Trane tribute Back­side, but it’s generally rather con­tained. The band fares better in concert, and as their London appearance in October sug­gested, the next album could happily be a live one.

Discography

The Brecker Brothers – Collection/Volume Two
(1) Rocks; A Creature Of Many Faces; (2) Funky Sea, Funky Dew; Skunk Funk; Sponge; Squids; (3) Tee’d Off; (4) Squish; Baffled; (5) Not Ethiopia; (6) Jacknife (68.54)
(1) Randy Brecker (t); Michael Breaker (ts); David Sanborn (as); Don Grolnick (kyb); Bob Mann (elg); Will Lee (elb); Harvey Mason (d); Ralph MacDonald (pc). New York, January 1975.
(2) Randy Brecker (t/kyb); Michael Brecker (ts); Barry Finnerty (elg); Neil Jason (elb); Terry Bozzio (d); Sammy Figueroa & Rafael Cruz (pc). My Father’s Place, Roslyn, Long Island, 1978.
(3) Randy Brecker (t); Michael Brecker (ts); Mark Gray (elp); George Duke (syn); Hiram Bullock (elg); Neil Jason (elb); Steve Jordan (d). New York, 1980.
(4) as (3) plus Airto (pc). New York & Los Angeles, 1980.
(5) Randy Brecker (t); Michael Brecker (ts); Mark Gray (kyb); Barry Finnerty (elg); Marcus Miller (elb); Richie Morales (d); Don Alias (pc). New York, 1981.
(6) as (5) except Alias out, Sammy Figueroa and Manolo Badrena (pc) in.
(BMG Novus ND83076)

Return Of The Brecker Brothers
Song For Barry; King Of The Lobby; Big Idea; Above & Below; That’s All There Is To It; Wakaria (What’s Up?); On The Backside; Sozinho (Alone); Spherical; Good Gracious; Roppongi (63.09)
Collective personnel: Michael Brecker (ts/kyb/ EWI); Randy Brecker (t/flh/v); Mike Stern, Dean Brown (elg); Armand Sabal-Lecco (elb/ pice b/v); Max Risenhoover (syn/d/b/pc); Don Alias, Bashiri Johnson (pc); Maz, George Whitty (kyb); David Sanborn (as); Veera, Will Lee, Malcolm Pollack (v); Robby Kiigore (elp/ elb); James Genus (b/elb); Dennis Chambers (d). New York, April-August, 1992.
(GRP 96842)