[NOTEWORTHY] …influential tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker’s Pilgrimage is a portrait of his transcending musical journey

Next to John Coltrane, Michael Brecker was unquestionably the most influential tenor player in the history of jazz. As a result of his stylistic and harmonic innovations, he is the most studied contemporary jazz musician in music schools throughout the world today. He is also a 13-time Grammy winner. Following a two-and-a-half-year battle with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and leukemia, Brecker passed away on January 13, 2007. While in the midst of his debilitating illness, however, Brecker persevered. His work in the studio at the time of his death includes some of the finest music he has ever recorded.

Pilgrimage chronicles Brecker’s final journey one in which the music itself served as a sustaining force. Those present in the studio recall moments when the rigors of recording were so physically taxing nearly to the point of collapse for the leader whose health was compromised. In the end, it was Brecker’s sheer will, and a dedication to completing the recording, that pushed him, his colleagues, and the project as a whole across the finish line. As is often the case, the adversity working against the creator only makes the creation that much stronger and richer and all the more sublime. Every one of the nine tracks composed by Brecker on Pilgrimage is a portrait of an artist at the peak of his creative powers. The album is the first in Brecker’s stellar discography which consists solely of his original compositions.

Each tune is compelling in this 75-minute set, and there are moments within each that are absolutely transcendent. Pilgrimage is a singular phenomenon in the annals of recorded music. It’s a consummate creative statement with a vision that speaks to us from a place we cant comprehend. It ¡s an invitation to take the spiritual journey of an artist whose legacy will outlast us all. ~Editorial Review | Amazon

Original Release Date: March 27, 2007

At your leisure, check out “PILGRIMAGE” by Michael Brecker

Charged Particles Pay Tribute to the Late Tenor Sax Great Michael Brecker on Live at the Baked Potato!

On their latest collaboration, Bay Area jazz trio Charged Particles joins forces with powerhouse Bay Area saxophonist Tod Dickow in a heartfelt tribute to iconic tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker. Set for October 8 on Summit Records, the album will be released concurrently with Brecker’s biography, Ode to a Tenor Titan by acclaimed author, Bill Milkowski.

 

Staggering in its authenticity and collective desire by the participants to get it right, Live at the Baked Potato! is a fitting testament to the late tenor titan’s greatness. No less an authority than Randy Brecker has given his stamp of approval: “Everyone’s at the top of their Mike game here. I found myself pinching my arm to remind myself that Mike is sadly no longer with us,Randy said.

 

In tackling Michael Brecker’s imposing oeuvre, the band reveals the genius of his compositional prowess, a side of the multi-faceted musician that was often overshadowed by his legendary chops. Yet there is no attempt here to recreate Michael Brecker’s awesome technique — no transcriptions of his heroic solos, no slavish adherence to every nuance of his classic recordings. Instead, the Bay Area group successfully captures the essence of Michael’s spirit in their faithful renditions of his tunes spanning three decades, rendered with their own signature sound and approach.

 

The success of the group’s mission to honor Michael is due in no small part to the contributions of veteran San Francisco tenor saxophonist Tod Dickow, whose sheer force and fluent execution of some typically unconventional Breckerian lines seem to lift the entire band throughout this March 17, 2019, performance at the intimate Baked Potato in Los Angeles’ quaint Studio City neighborhood. “I certainly listened to enough of Mike’s music that it’s going to come out in my playing,” said Dickow, who delivers with passionate intensity on classic Brecker tunes like the hard-charging “Peep” (from Brecker’s third Impulse! album, 1990’s Now You See It…(Now You Don’t), “Arc of the Pendulum” (from 1999’s Time Is Of the Essence) and a chops-busting “The Mean Time” (from Michael’s 2007 swan song, Pilgrimage). “But it’s not really like I’ve ever outright tried to imitate him. I just know that some of the devices that he used have become a part of my playing. He’s a model of perfection, and I’ve always looked at his playing as something to strive for,” added Dickow.

 

The core trio of drummer and founder Jon Krosnick, pianist Murray Low, and bassist Aaron Germain began working together around the Bay Area in 2011. After doing nearly a thousand gigs together as a trio, Krosnick floated the idea of adding a tenor saxophonist in order to do a full-fledged Michael Brecker tribute. “I’m always looking for new projects – something to change things up for us and our listeners, to keep our performances interesting,” said Krosnick. Keyboardist Low knew exactly who to recruit to stand in front of the band for this adventure: “There’s only one guy: Tod,” he said. “Tod has had a passion for getting it right and capturing the Brecker sound. In rehearsals, he guided us through ‘the Michael vision’ – he’s absorbed so much from his listening over the years. It’s really helped us with authenticity,” said Low.

 

While Dickow’s muscular tenor prowess is a formidable presence throughout Live at the Baked Potato!, kudos must also be given to inventive keyboardist Low, whose nimble segueing from piano to organ to sampled sounds and assorted synths during the set (courtesy of some complicated splits on his keyboard allowing him to cover multiple parts at once) helped capture the richness of the original studio recordings by Brecker’s various bands. Germain’s seamless doubling from electric to upright bass provided the band with much-needed versatility to cover this wide swath of Brecker music. And special commendation goes to Charged Particles drummer Krosnick, who has been the driving force behind this band for nearly 30 years ago. “Mike’s music has been the soundtrack of my life,” he said. “This album is my way of saying thanks to him for so much happiness and inspiration over the years,” says Krosnick.

 

Charged Particles · Live at the Baked Potato!
Summit Records · Release Date: October 8, 2021

 

For more information on Charged Particles, please visit:

 

REFLECTION: Rendering classic jazz INFINITY by an amazing artist, pianist/composer McCoy Tyner

McCoy Tyner Trio, INFINITY (ORIGINALLY RELEASED: Jan. 1995)

When I think about great piano players, it is appropriate to say not just because of familiarity McCoy Tyner’s name rises among the top as significant, vibrant, and soulful players on the jazz scene regardless of era. Perhaps, it is easy to come to this conclusion because of his musical virtuosity undoubtedly speaks volumes. Case in point, in front of me is his brilliant 1995 recording “INFINITY” qualifies as a defining moment and a supreme choice for jazz collectors to embrace and listen to repeatedly.

Tyner paired his voice with some of the best to record INFINITY, bassist Avery Sharpe, drummer Aaron Scott, and saxophonist Michael Brecker appeared to combine their formidable gifts and presence to amplify originals such as “FLYING HIGH” to Monk’s bouncy “I MEAN YOU” featuring Brecker’s solo places firm exclamation point on it! Penned by Tyner, the palpable funk meets jazz sound is underscored on “HAPPY DAYS” and a pellucid rendition of Coltrane’s “IMPRESSIONS” features Brecker’s recognizable tone to this delectable palette of music.

As a player and composer, it is Tyner’s complex, bold, and soul-stirring vocabulary that integrates naturally. “MELLOW MINOR” an original yet vigorous piece at the number eight spot title does not match the tempo and far removed from being remotely relaxed (jamming). Moreover, this gem is solidified by saxophonist Michael Brecker’s rich vibrato and stimulating voice is undeniably icing on the cake. Tyner closes the session with his muscularly fluent touch (solo) and distinct stride is utterly amazing on the classic “GOOD MORNING HEARTACHE.” When an artist approaches timeless pieces like this is an opportunity to excel and make it your own or not and he met this challenge without breaking a sweat. ~Reviewed by Rob Young

At your leisure, listen to “INFINITY” a timeless classic by the legendary McCoy Tyner.

Listening to “MILAGRO” the latest album by pianist/composer Alan Pasqua

Like many of you, I spend a great deal of time streaming music. Today, I’m starting with the latest arrival for 2021, originally released in 2009 by pianist/composer Alan Pasqua titled “MILAGRO” featuring the supreme talents of drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist Dave Holland, and saxophonist Michael Brecker. I will frequently share with you a variety of albums and single tracks that capture my attention new and classics alike, my desire is that you will do the same. Peace be with you, Rob.

Available @Spotify
Alan Pasqua, MILAGRO, 2009