Remember the Sound (Homage to Michael Brecker)
The death of tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker in early 2007 shook the jazz world. This excellent tribute features Swiss alto saxophonist George Robert leading a ten-piece band consisting of fellow faculty members at Lausanne Conservatory, with special guest Randy Brecker on trumpet, playing seven originals written and arranged by Jim McNeely. Robert, who has typically recorded with a quartet or quintet prior to this outing, excels in a different setting, generously featuring his fellow musicians. McNeely's writing reflects the type of music that would have suited Michael Brecker if he had been able to participate, while is it suggestive of the different periods of the late musician's career. "Burn" is a turbulent opener, followed by the moody "Silver Spheres," which features trombonist Rene Mosele at length. "In Step, Out Ahead" blends post-bop with a contemporary air, showcasing pianist Emil Spanyi. "Into Thy Hands" is a gorgeous work that serves as a requiem, while "Hudson Funkshon" is a playful strut. Laurent Wolf's soulful tenor sax in the gospel-infused "Remember the Sound" is suggestive of Brecker without being a mere clone.
All Music Guide
Working with a tentet similar to mid-size bands he's led on his own projects, composer/arranger Jim McNeely has fashioned a musical tribute to the late Michael Brecker that manages to conjure up aspects of the late saxophonist's music and musical personality, without resorting to overt mimicry or pastiche. Led by alto saxophonist George Robert, with faculty from the jazz program he heads at Switzerland's Lausanne Conservatory, the Jazztet negotiates the harmonic and counterpoint-rich music with esprit and elan.
The music references various periods and stylistic aspects of Brecker's career, beginning with the aptly titled "Burn," a flag waver the composer says is inspired by Brecker's many up-up-tempo quartet numbers. But "Burn" is no quartet piece; it's a full-fledged orchestral number with a theme that burgeons into counterpoint and fugue-like contrasts before giving way to Robert Bonisolo's inspired tenor sax and guest Randy Brecker's fiery trumpet solos over restlessly churning horns. "Silver Spheres" recalls Michael Brecker's tenure with Horace Silver, in an undulating tune that could have come from the pianist's book. High and low horns provide an ongoing ensemble counterpoint on "In Step, Out Ahead," a salute to Brecker's time in Steps Ahead, while the rocking backbeat groove of "Hudson Funkshon" recalls the Brecker Brothers years, complete with a distorted guitar solo and a saxophones/flute soli emulating the sound of the EWI (electronic wind instrument) that Brecker played in that band. Brecker's more spiritual side is remembered in the ballad "Into Thy Hands," featuring Robert's alto and a coda from Mathieu Schneider's flute, and the title tune, a gospel-influenced number with Bonisolo's tenor in the lead interacting with the horns as choir.
- George Kanzler, Published: January 11, 2010 (www.allaboutjazz.com/m/article.php?id=35222)