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December 2006

Marc Copland & Randy Brecker
Both/And
Nagel-Heyer

This album verifies that Randy Brecker’s straightahead improvisational chops are intact, unbesmirched and uncompromised by his various business pursuits in more commercially viable jazz formats. His trumpet tone is distinctively burnished and attractively astringent. His ideas always push against and alter expectation. He sounds unhurried, even at fast tempos.

The other members of this unpretentious yet sophisticated quartet are pianist Marc Copland, bassist Ed Howard and drummer Victor Lewis. Each is capable of commanding attention on his own. On Copland’s teetering, enigmatic title track, the piano solo holds the song’s tension and then releases and spills it. When the arrangement focuses on Howard, his shifting, elusive ostinato becomes a cryptic bass solo. But the strength of this rhythm section lies in creating inspirational contexts for Brecker.

The best piece is “I Loves You Porgy,” because the feeling is retained in Brecker’s luxuriant, luminous trumpet sound even as he smears and fragments one of Gershwin’s most-played songs. Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder” is uncharacteristically asymmetrical and oblique, and provokes the freest, most expansive statements on the album by Brecker and Copland.

The only reservation about this strong session is that the six originals (five by Copland, one by Brecker) only become fully interesting when the soloists take their liberties with them.

Originally published in December 2006
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