Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Randy Brecker: RandyPOP!

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Early in his career, Randy Brecker learned something important: When you’re as adaptable-and as talented-as he is, you can get lots of work. The trumpeter, often in tandem with his late saxophonist brother Michael, performed sideman duties on hundreds of recordings by all kinds of artists, not only in jazz but also R&B, rock and pop. RandyPOP! is about those studio gigs: Here Brecker, along with pianist-keyboardist Kenny Werner (who also arranged the music), tenor saxophonist David Sánchez, guitarist Adam Rogers, bassist John Patitucci, drummer Nate Smith and vocalist Amanda Brecker (Randy’s daughter), sets up shop at the Blue Note in New York and revisits nine of the tunes to which he originally donated licks.

Paul Simon (“Late in the Evening”), Todd Rundgren, James Brown and Bruce Springsteen (“Meeting Across the River”) are among the songsmiths whose music is surveyed, but the third track puts it all in context: Blood, Sweat & Tears’ 1968 debut album, Child Is Father to the Man, was a seminal jazz-rock recording, and for most listeners it provided the first taste of Randy Brecker. Al Kooper’s “I Can’t Quit Her” represents it here, the band extending the piece to 12-minutes-plus, its melody amply referenced but its original soul-infused rhythm chopped up into funky bite-sized pieces that would have been completely alien to the ’60s audience. Brecker calls what Werner does on this album “derangements,” and this track explains what he means.

The opener, “New Frontier,” from Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, featuring Amanda Brecker’s vocal, showcases Rogers’ acidic guitar work and Werner’s synth prominently, but it’s not till midway into the set, with the back-to-back performances of Rundgren’s “Hello, It’s Me” and Garland Jeffreys’ “Ghost Writer,” that it really gels: Neither arrangement owes overtly to the source material; Brecker and company nod to it, then move on. By the time it wraps with the Springsteen and Simon numbers, they’ve got you thinking about what you’d want to hear in a volume two.

Originally Published