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’70s Jazz Pioneers: Live at the Town Hall, NYC

The concept here is strange, reminiscent of those touring ’50s rock ‘n’ roll shows with Dion & The Belmonts and what’s left of The Coasters. Package five profound players-Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman, Al Foster, Joanne Brackeen, Buster Williams and Pat Martino, all of whom happened to come of age during the ’70s and each a composer-bandleader in his/her own right-and have them play what amounts to cover tunes by other artists. The very name of the group is unfortunate. A single band name might’ve been more appropriate; certainly more evocative.

But getting past the stigma of the packaging, there is definitely some savory music here. The choice of tunes is a bit obvious but the players imbue these familiar vehicles with their strong signatures. Brecker exhibits some typically bold trumpet work on “Cantaloupe Island,” “Sugar” and “Red Clay.” Liebman soars dramatically on soprano on “500 Miles High” and Martino recycles all of his mind-boggling cliches on a burning “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise.” Brackeen’s harmonically and rhythmically intriguing comping on “All Blues” spurs on some heroic solos from Brecker, Martino and Liebman on tenor.

Clearly, there is chemistry here. If they remained a working band it would be interesting to see what original material they could generate together.

Originally Published