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Unity: JazzTimes Superband

Dennis Chambers
Bob Berg
Randy Brecker
Joey DeFrancesco
The JazzTimes Superband (L to R): Dennis Chambers, Bob Berg, Randy Brecker, Joey DeFrancesco

In drummer Rafi Zabor’s remarkable book, The Bear Comes Home (W. W. Norton, 1998), there is a part in which the hero of the story-a talking, alto saxophone-playing bear-is making his debut recording, for fictional Tin Palace records. It is a live date, and while the Bear is playing, he is simultaneously worrying about various situations in his life, not least of which are his troublesome status within society as a talking, jazz-playing bear and the fact that he is on the run from both the police and the dogcatcher.

Stressed, and highly conscious of the red recording light, the Bear tries with all his might to live up to what he thinks he ought to sound like on his first recording. In the moment, the ideal of selfless musical communication seems out of reach, so he falls back on what he knows, the years spent in the practice shed. In one of the best written evocations of improvisation under less-than-perfect conditions, the Bear is seen actually struggling to “simulate” his own playing style. In spite of the Bear’s misgivings, the recording turns out to be both a musical and a moderate commercial success, and serves to elevate the Bear to the next level of his challenging and difficult career.

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