Michael Brecker's second album as a leader is almost the equal of his first. Surprisingly, only one song ("Suspone") uses his working quintet of the period (which consists of guitarist Mike Stern, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Jeff Andrews and drummer Adam Nussbaum) although those musicians also pop up on other selections with the likes of pianists Don Grolnick and Herbie Hancock, bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Jack DeJohnette and violinist Mark O'Connor. Brecker (on tenor and the EWI) is in superb form, really ripping into the eight pieces (mostly group originals).
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Grace Paley. The award-winning author and social activist was once asked If she taught her students to write about what they know. "No", she answered, "I teach them to write what they don't know about what they know".
It Is precisely this quality of exploration of stretching out Into new uncharted territory that characterizes the work of tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker on Don't Try This At Home, his second solo recording for Impulse' Searching probing, absorbing, experimenting analyzing-Brecker Is In a constant state of artistic reflection and expansion.
Never mind that he already possesses one of the most formidable arsenals of skills of any saxophonist In contemporary music a luminous full-bodied tone that Is unmistakably Brecker In any context a consistent technlgue that enables him to perform swirling melodies dense harmonies, laggered rhythmic punctuations and complex contrapuntal lines with grace and agility a veteran painters sense of texture, shading and balance chops galore no use the musical vernacular), and, perhaps most Importantly, exemplary taste and sensitivity together with an unerring knack for capturing the essence of each composition he performs Never mind that his remarkable diversity has enabled him to perform with equal skill and conviction alongside such artists as Horace Silver. Frank Zappa. Chick Corea John Lennon. Jen! Mitchell Herble Hancock Dire Straits Cameo James Taylor Steely Dan. Claus Ogerman. George Clinton and hundreds more during the past 15 years.
And never mind that as a soloist, ensemble player and composer, he Is fast becoming one of the most Influential and Imitated saxophomsts In jazz Because for all of his gifts and accomplishments. Michael Brecker remains a work In constant progress - a song without a coda.
Breckers 1987 Impulse' debut, Michael Brecker, featuring guitarist Pat Metheny keyboardist Kenny Kirkland bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Jack DeJohnette. quickly rose to the top of national jazz charts, earned effusive critical praise, and garnered Best Jazz Album of the Year awards In Down Beat and Jazziz as well as a Grammy Award nomination for the same.
What made Michael Brecker such a rewarding effort was both the creative breakthrough It represented and the almost limitless promise It held for the future Freed from the often rigorous constraints that all studio session musicians must contend with and given carte blanche to follow his muse Brecker produced a project that bristled with the Intensity and excitement of an artist revelling In the heady spirit of artistic liberation.
Upon the release of his eponymous debut recording the 39 year old saxophonist promptly formed a hot band featuring guitarist Mike Stern bassist Jeff Andrews, drummer Adam Mussbaum and rising young piano talent Joey Calderazzo This quintet hit the road In the Spring of 87 for extensive tours of Europe Japan and the U.S.
Now, one year later Don't Try This At Home solidly reaffirms that Michael Brecker Is continuing his quest to claim new, untouched musical territory Says Brecker It was exhilarating to explore unfamiliar ground while making a record.
What was Initially unfamiliar to Brecker should be welcomed by discriminating music lovers everywhere Armed once again with his trusty Selmer saxopohone and the Akal EVVI I a revolutionary eight octave electronic wind Instrument) Brecker has produced a refreshing richly diverse recording.
Indeed each of the eight tracks on Don't Try This At Home strike a fine balance between fire and finesse, pithy ensemble work and free-wheeling Improvisations With wonderfully empathlc contributions from drummer DeJohnette bassist Haden. pianists Hancock and Grolmck. pianist-synthesizer player Jim Beard, the members of his tou ring band ( making their record debut as an nit here) and - on one track each - viol In 1st Mark 0 Connor and synthesizer programmer Judd Miller Brecker equals and frequently surpasses, the excellence of his maiden recording from last year.
The opening selection Itsbynne Reel begins with a vigorous traditional Irish reel-cum-bluegrass duet between Brecker on EWI and violinist O'Connor before leading Into a driving, harmonized vamp that features what Is arguably the best sax solo of Breckers recording career There are seven other equally adventurous tracks, ranging from the forlorn yet ultl mately begu illng mood piece Scriabin, to the unfettered. "I Got Rhythm" - Inspired swing of "Suspone," and the poignant balladry of "Everything Happens When Youre Gone."
Says Brecker "We tried to stay away from obvious devices, and hoped to make a record that bears repeated listenings." Happily, with Don't Try This At Home, he has done just that.
- George Varga