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January/February 2000

Michael Brecker
Time Is of the Essence
Verve

Since Michael Brecker has long been regarded as one of the top two or three descendants of John Coltrane, it was inevitable that he get together with Elvin Jones. The two titans from different generations finally met as Brecker was turning 50 and they play heroically together on a third of the aptly-named Time Is of the Essence, Michael's first-ever organ quartet outing. Drummers Jeff "Tain" Watts and Bill Stewart lend their considerable talents to the rest of this project, which is further enhanced by the presence of Pat Metheny on guitar and Larry Goldings, who sets the tone for these proceedings on Hammond B-3 organ.
At the B-3, Goldings is coming more out of the Dr. Lonnie Smith-Larry Young school of hip chordal voicings and idiosyncratic punctuations as opposed to the all-out cranking school of The Mighty Burner Charles Earland. He applies smoking left hand bass lines and adventurous comping to his own blazing "Sound Off," an uptempo romp propelled by Tain's ever-surging swing factor and interactive muscle on the kit, and he supplies a lush cushion beneath brilliant solos by both Brecker and Metheny on the gorgeous ballad "The Morning of This Night." Metheny also demonstrates some playful abandon on the loosely swinging "Dr. Slate," urged on by Tain's jaunty pulse on the kit.
Stewart's relaxed, slightly-behind-the-beat groove defines "Half Past Late," which is highlighted by a superbly flowing, warm-toned and lyrical solo by Metheny. He also puts up some funk on producer George Whitty's homage to Eddie Harris, "Renaissance Man," a vehicle for some rambunctious ripping by Brecker.
The most dramatic interaction between Jones and Brecker comes on the heightened closer "Outrance," which features a daring breakdown between drums and tenor sax that recalls some of Elvin's kinetic encounters with Trane during the '60s. And nobody can play a midtempo groove quite like Elvin, as the legendary drummer proves on "Timeline," Metheny's earthy offering that features some of Brecker's bluesiest statements on record.
This is easily Brecker's most satisfying and celebratory project to date, deeper and more incandescent than his last two outings, Two Blocks From the Edge and Tales From the Hudson. Given the star power, the inherent chemistry and the extraordinarily high level of playing throughout, Time Is of the Essence is a dream date for Brecker as well as for his legion of fans.

Originally published in January/February 2000
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