"[Recordings of the Brecker Brothers'] music still crackle with the magnetic brand of high-energy, high tech virtuoso playing [and] writing that characterizes the work of the Philadelphia-bred duo to this day ... The kind of pivotal role played by Bird in bebop, or Miles in modal improvisation, is similar to that played by the Breckers vis-à-vis jazz-funk."
- Chuck Berg, JazzTimes
Throughout its history, jazz has been revitalized with a continual evolution of style, fresh transformations in expression, bold leaps into the free improvisational sphere of the unknown and most importantly the arrival of young artists who, while steeped in the past, have an eye to the future of the idiom. Jazz aficionados welcome the dawning of the next generations of talented musicians who boldly stride into progressive territory. Among the most important young jazz stars in that vein is vibraphonist Warren Wolf, who delivers his remarkable sophomore album, Wolfgang, on Mack Avenue Records. Wolf, a multi-instrumentalist who has also honed his chops on drums and piano since age three, is also following in the footsteps of vibes masters Bobby Hutcherson and Stefon Harris by becoming a member of the SFJazz Collective (both of whom precede him in the vibes chair).
Wolfgang, set for an August 20 release, features two different three-man rhythm sections (pianist Benny Green, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash; and pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Kris Funn and drummer Billy Williams, Jr.), as well as two noteworthy duo pieces with pianist/label-mate Aaron Diehl. Wolf and Diehl are both building their careers as young (each under age 35) musicians keeping the jazz tradition alive.
Comprising nine tunes (six of which are originals), Wolfgang spotlights Wolf taking a different, more laidback take than his volcanic eponymous debut album on Mack Avenue. “The last record was a means of introducing myself as a leader,” says the 33-year-old Baltimore-based vibraphonist. “This time I set out to showcase my writing skills with compositions that have melodies people can remember.”
On his first album, which was produced by mentor/label-mate McBride (who Wolf has been performing with since 2007 after the pair met at Jazz Aspen seven years before that), Wolf placed himself in the context of a quintet and sextet (with saxophonist Tim Green and, on two tracks, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt). This time out he largely focuses on the quartet setting. “I wanted to display the beauty of the vibes,” he says. “In a quintet, you’re limited. With a quartet, you can hear me more. A lot of times the vibes is played in support of others. I’m showing here that I can hold the ball by myself.” Wolfgang sets out to showcase Wolf’s classical and blues influences, as well as his compositions.
Wolfgang opens with the vibraphonist leading his own home-base band (Fun and Williams with Goldberg sitting in as a guest) into “Sunrise,” with Goldberg and Williams making predawn statements, then develops into the relaxed aurora with Wolf joining the group. The piece develops into a swinging gem with lyrical vibes lines. With the same band, Wolf speeds into the hard-burning swinger “Grand Central,” which takes a frenetic pace with mad dashes of movement: a wild chase, a crushing push. “Actually, this originally had another title which we decided not to use,” says Wolf. “But I was performing it at Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and a guy came up after and said that reminded him of being at Grand Central Station at rush hour. So, that’s the perfect title.”
The foursome also jumps into the upbeat “Lake Nerraw Flow” which features Wolf taking a rippling solo. It’s a song he wrote as a senior at Berklee College of Music in 2001. “I don’t write like that anymore, but I knew this would be great for all of us to stretch out,” Wolf says. And the title? “That’s my name spelled backwards.” As for the fourth tune of the band, “Setembro,” written by Ivan Lins/Gilson Peranzzetta, Wolf invites singer Darryl Tookes to harmonize with smooth wordless vocals. “It goes back to my goal for this album: record melodies that people actually enjoy,” says Wolf.
Long regarded as one of jazz's pioneering fusion outfits, The Brecker Brothers Band boasted two of the best players in the music's history - trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonist Michael Brecker. Together they forged a sound that became a template for modern electric jazz, scoring that rare double-headed achievement of commercial and artistic success.
Founded in 1975, the Brecker Brothers Band was one of the first acts signed to the then-fledgling Arista Records. Recording six albums and garnering seven Grammy nominations from 1975-1982, the band enjoyed immeasurable influence.
The group flaunted a smart combination of musical devices: sophisticated compositions, intricate melodies, and inside-out bop heads played over funk rhythms. These elements, along with Randy's virtuosic trumpet work and Michael's burning saxophone playing and innovative work on the EWI ("electronic wind instrument"), combined to attract some of the finest players on the scene to join the band: Terry Bozzio, Hiram Bullock, Dennis Chambers, Steve Gadd. Steve Khan, Will Lee, Neil Jason, Marcus Miller Chris Parker, David Sanborn, Mike Stern, Luther Vandross, Dave Weckl, Rodney Holmes, and Lenny White, among others. This cast of all-star musicians added luster and allure to the group's overall appeal.
After a hiatus of nearly a decade, the Brecker Brothers reunited in 1992 for the GRP album Return of the Brecker Brothers, which earned three Grammy nominations. The band completed a world tour and then returned to the studio in 1994 to record Out of the Loop, which won two Grammys - one for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance, and one for Best Instrumental Composition for Michael's "African Skies." On tour once more, they became the first international contemporary jazz group to perform in mainland China, including sold-out shows in Beijing and Shanghai.
Even now, almost two decades after this reunion, the Brecker Brothers Band remains one of the seminal bands in the history of jazz. As Chuck Berg declared in Jazz Times, "[Recordings of the Brecker Brothers'] music still crackle with the magnetic brand of high-energy, high tech virtuoso playing [and] writing that characterizes the work of the Philadelphia-bred duo to this day ... The kind of pivotal role played by Bird in bebop, or Miles in modal improvisation, is similar to that played by the Breckers vis-à-vis jazz-funk."
The Brecker Brothers Band Reunion put together by 5 time Grammy winner Randy Brecker celebrates the past achievements of the band and of the great Michael Brecker, who the world lost to mds/leukemia in 2007, along with vital new compositions celebrating the future. The Brecker Brothers Band is comprised of past members from different periods of the band’s history and features rising star Italian saxophonist Ada Rovatti, Randy Brecker’s wife. Keeping it in the family!