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


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Lunar Octet Re-Emerges with First Album in 26 Years Ann Arbor Ensemble Blends Latin Jazz, Afrobeat, Samba, and Funk on Convergence

AVAILABLE NOW via Summit Records


A decades-long institution in Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, and also the nearby Metro Detroit area, the Lunar Octet is back with a potent collection of originals inspired by such wide-ranging influences as mambo, samba, funk, Afrobeat, and jazz on Convergence. The title itself suggests a confluence of rhythms and styles, and that is precisely what this band of multi-directional musicians has been doing since meeting 36 years ago in Ann Arbor and subsequently recording their 1994 debut, Highway Fun for Schoolkids Records. Reuniting in the studio 25 years later, the members of the Lunar Octet documented their collective growth while remaining committed to their original mission on Convergence, now available on Summit Records.

From the percolating salsa groove of the infectious opener, “Norm’s Nambo,” to the swinging big band flavored chart, “Toote Suite,” the Brazilian music influenced “Mambossa,” the rhythmically charged “Subway Tension”, and the entrancing Afrobeat numbers “Dancin’ in the Doghouse” and “Heart of Congatar,” the Lunar Octet presents a compelling world view of sound. Add the churning “Samba Diabolico,” the buoyantly swinging “Crusin’” (think Neal Hefti arrangements for the mid ‘50s Count Basie band), the alluring tango “Until I Find Words” (an clarinet feature) and the rollicking, Brazilian flavored batucada “Samba Over Easy” (reminiscent of Airto Moreira’s “Tombo in 7/4”), and you’ve got a veritable United Nations of sound that you can also dance to. 

“The Lunar Octet is like a diamond,” said percussionist and co-founding member Aron Kaufman, called “the soul of the band” by his colleagues. “We’re all different facets of the diamond expressing the singularity of our musical mission. And it’s not about our technique, in terms of us being monster chops players who want to show off how amazing we are. Really, it’s the sum of the parts that brings hope and joy, and love to people who come to see us. I believe with all my heart and soul that as artists if we can lift people’s spirits by showing love and celebration of the different world musical cultures that we bring to life in our particular special way, we’re bringing some light to the darkness.

Originally formed in 1984 as the Afrobeat flavored Lunar Glee Club, the group morphed into the Lunar Octet in the ‘90s and began taking on the influences of samba and jazz through the compositions and arranging of alto saxophonist and principal composer Steve Hiltner. The New York City-born Kaufman absorbed music in the Big Apple (represented by his tune “Subway Tension”) before his family moved to Puerto Rico. Through his mentor Norman Shobey (Aron’s tune “Norm’s Nambo” is dedicated to Norm), Kaufman began studying conga and later widened his repertoire with a year abroad in Israel, where he soaked up Middle Eastern music and began playing the darbuka drum. Other founding members of the band include drummer Jon Krosnick (who also anchors the West Coast-based fusion band Charged Particles), tenor saxophonist Paul VornHagen (who also leads the Cuban jazz combo Tumbao Bravo), trumpeter Brandon Cooper (an in-demand freelancer in the Metro Detroit area) and guitarist Sam Clark. Rounding out the Lunar Octet are young piano sensation Keaton Royer, bassist Jeff Dalton, and percussionist Olman Piedra.

Regarding the group’s long hiatus and recent return with Convergence, Krosnick said, “The early ‘90s was the peak time for the band, when we were on national radio broadcasts and playing at major festivals. But then band members moved away. I took a job teaching at Ohio State, Steve Hiltner moved to North Carolina, others moved elsewhere. So we lost momentum. But we rediscovered ourselves five years ago and said, “Hey, this music’s cool, let’s keep doing this.” That reunion came in 2014 with a performance at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor. And regular performances have followed ever since. “It’s been fun to come back with live shows,” said Krosnick. “And now with the release of Convergence, we’re feeling like we can create some buzz about the band and do some touring.”

Krosnick explained that the band’s initial Afrobeat influence came in large part from original bassist Dan Ladizinsky, who names King Sunny Ade as a primary influence. As Jon recalls, “It was literally a garage band in the beginning. Guys were getting together and just trying to groove. The more intricate compositions only kicked in years later when Steve Hiltner joined the band. He brought in some of the more highly orchestrated stuff that’s full of complexities and twists and surprises and unexpected bridges. But it was quite the opposite in the beginning. The original version of the band had no piano player and two bass players and a guitar player, so there was a deep African groove thing happening, like a jam band.” 

“I sort of ruined it for the faction of the group that really loved straight-ahead grooves and simple melodic stuff,” said Hiltner. “I started bringing in pieces that were more than just stock 32 bar tunes that could be in the Real Book. I bring a classical element to the band in the motivic development in my compositions, which you can hear on ‘Samba Diabolico,’ for instance.” Of the seemingly disparate musical elements coming together on Convergence, Hiltner, a trained botanist added: “Nature is just miraculous in the way it breaks everything down into constituent parts and then builds something new. I think of the creative process like that. It’s like composting: bringing lots of different elements together so something new comes out of the blend.” 

After such a long hiatus from recording, Kaufman is thrilled about the release of the Lunar Octet’s ConvergenceIt shows the longevity of our friendships and music all intertwined,” he said. “And music really is an expression of our connections to each other. What we’re doing reflects years and years of building trust and relationships.” He added, “I’m always open to new possibilities. That’s what’s great about the Lunar Octet. Over and over again, one of us has come up with an idea that has musical integrity and quality that is inspiring and that we are excited about. That’s what makes our music so interesting and varied. And we always support each other to bring those kinds of tunes out. The openness of sharing is an important part of the band. All of the many different musical qualities that we all bring to the table help form a nice balance.

Listen to CONVERGENCE by Lunar Octet below…

SOURCE: DLMedia Music