Brecker Brothers Live and Unreleased
Release date: March 20, 2020
Randy Brecker and Piloo Records have released a historic 1980 live recording of the consummate trumpeter’s seminal band with his late brother Michael Brecker, The Brecker Brothers. Live and Unreleased documents the incomparable amalgam of jazz and hard-hitting rock and funk that became the trademark sound of the Brecker Brothers, and the sound of the generation. The 1980 recording at the legendary Hamburg music club Onkel Pö’s Carnegie Hall captures the group at perhaps its highest peak. On Live and Unreleased, the two virtuosic horn titans are accompanied by guitarist Barry Finnerty, keyboardist Mark Gray, bassist Neil Jason and drummer Richie Morales.
Randy recalls “Young and ready to create havoc wherever we performed, we usually left our audiences in tatters...Brother Mike was at the top of his game (well, he never wasn't at the top of his game!) and we were clicking as the Brother Horn Section or 'Hawn' Section as they would say in Long Island. So enjoy this 'long lost' live concert which brings back to life a lot of pleasant memories of great music, late nights 'on the hang', and many a story a little too risqué to repeat here.”
After a European summer tour of large-scale festivals, the intimate Onkel Pö was a familiar, comfortable setting for this powerhouse sextet. A masterclass in interplay, cohesiveness, and dynamic sensibility, one can hear that level of comfort and risk-taking in this exhilarating 2-CD set, recorded just one month after tenor sax titan Michael Brecker had played on Pat Metheny’s uncompromising post-bop studio album 80/81. Guitarist Barry Finnerty had recorded on the band’s 1978 masterpiece Heavy Metal Bebop and was taking a break from the Crusaders and “Street Life” to do this tour. The keyboard chair was held by the late great Mark Gray, a first-call NYC musician who, like the others, was totally immersed in the language of bebop, but also embraced the keyboard and synthesis technology of the day, adorning the ensemble’s core sound with the sounds of groundbreaking technology. Add the slamming rhythm tandem of drummer Morales and bassist Jason and it all made for a very potent, cutting edge brew that helped define the ‘80s fusion sound.
The first CD in this 2-CD set kicks off with an extended version of “Straphangin’,” a Michael Brecker composition that carries a kind of tongue-in-cheek classical overture before segueing to stone cold funk. This track would become the title track of the band’s sixth and final studio album, Straphangin, which was released ten months after this Hamburg concert. Randy takes a masterful solo on this track, beginning with Crybaby wah-wah trumpet exclamations before bursting out with a barrage of bristling, unaffected high-notes. Michael’s solo is well-paced, growing in dynamics and intensity, with the fervor and virtuosity that only the late titan could bring.
The Brothers offer a blistering take on the jazz-rock classic “Sponge”, a Randy Brecker composition from the band’s 1975 debut album The Brecker Brothers. This track engages the whole ensemble, featuring a call-and-response from Randy with brother Michael, as well as trading between Finnerty and Gray. This extended version of “Funky Sea, Funky Dew” features some of Michael’s earliest experimentation with the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument), taking an unaccompanied solo that continues for a full nine minutes; a virtual master class in the art of electronic saxophone.
The anthemic “Some Skunk Funk” is delivered at a typical blazing tempo. Randy notes “That tune has become like a right of passage for young musicians. There’s just something about the challenge of it that always made it appealing to musicians. It’s a difficult tune and it just became part of the fusion repertoire, so young players always want to have a shot at it.” The band leaves the crowd stunned after Mike and Jason dig deep, displaying their stunning melodic invention over the complex changes of this trademark tune.
The 2-CD set finishes with the humorous, Zappa-esque vocal number “Don’t Get Funny With My Money”, with lyrics co-written by Luther Vandross, and performed here by Randy. The track closes with fiery exchanges of eights between Mike, Randy and Finnerty; a powerful ending to a hallmark album that stands an important addition to the Brecker Brothers’ recorded legacy.
JAZZ VIEWS WITH CJ SHEARN
"The raw, stripped down nature is a conduit for crackling solos, and lockstep group interplay, with absolutely unhinged Randy and Michael Brecker at their absolute best." Read this full review here.
Today we’re continuing our Off the Road series with jazz and session icon Randy Brecker of the legendary Brecker Brothers joining HPR All Things Considered Host Dave Lawrence, the latest guest in this series of interviews with musicians remotely sharing how they’ve been touched by the pandemic and other crises. Read this full review here.
"Turn up the volume, close your eyes and prepare for a long, thrilling night with one of the most ass-kicking bands to ever play in concert. And pay close attention to the bold choices made by Mike Brecker during his nine-minute unaccompanied solo on “Funky Sea, Funky Dew.” Read this full review here.
"Will the jazz police appreciate this recording? Doubtful. Too many rock rhythms, they’ll say, or the bass is too funky. Those who choose to actually listen, however, will be rewarded – as well as those who find the Brecker Brothers’ Live and Unreleased moves the feet as much as the head." Read this full review here.
"The Brecker Brothers. Live and Unreleased documents a live performance at the legendary Onkel Pö’s Carnegie Hall in Hamburg, Germany, and captures their unique blend of jazz, rock and funk." Read the full article here.
CANCIÓN A QUEMARROPA
Hay que recordar que Michael Brecker falleció el 13 de enero de 2007 en la ciudad de New York. Michael firmó excelentes discos con su hermano Randy y tuvo una importante carrera personal y colaborativa con una importante nómina de músicos. Lea este articulo aquí.
GEORGE W. HARRIS
"The two disc set is a heat seeking missile of soul." Read the full review here.
THE JAZZ OWL
"What a way to end a concert and an album. If the ideal is always leave them wanting more, then Live and Unreleased does just that. Even at nearly two hours, you never want the album to end. Maybe it’s because of the early passing of Michael Brecker in 2007 or because we will never get to see the Brecker Brothers band again. Or maybe it’s just because this is one hot album full of amazing artistry and composing and arranging that fills what your heart longs to hear." Read the full review here.
"The band’s lineup at the time also included keyboardist Mark Gray, guitarist Barry Finnerty, drummer Richie Morales, and bassist Neil Jason, who also supplies vocals on his song “East River.” Jason’s aggressive style and tone help to add an edge to the group’s sound, which ultimately helped shape the sound of fusion in the 80s. Be sure to check out his funked out solo on the finger-busting “Some Skunk Funk." Read the full feature here.
"The sextet exudes energy and drive, making valuable statements in every solo as well as their tight connection as a band." Read the full article here.
DEE DEE MCNEIL
"If you’re someone who loves funk and fusion jazz, this album definitely ought to be in your collection." Read this full review here.