If anyone had doubts about Michael Brecker, backed by the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, pulling off a successful tribute to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” suite, they were dissolved about two minutes into the performance. Brecker began with the suite’s “Acknowledgement” sounding like Coltrane – in moves, sound and embellishments – but he soon made the music his own.
Slide Hampton’s arrangement was a bit dramatic at times, but it brought forth different nuances than the suite’s original recording. A unique change from the 1964-recorded version came from the trombone section, which took over much of bassist Jimmy Garrison’s role in the original, including the turbulent repetition of the famous bass line that accompanies the “A love supreme” chant.
The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band remained intense throughout the four-part suite, and trumpeter-conductor Jon Faddis enforced the arrangement’s dynamics and occasionally popped into the mix with a sizzling note or two.
Brecker echoed the band’s dynamic detail. Sometimes he would begin by blowing a mere breath of air into his horn but within seconds he would soar to peak volume. Although he played many notes, beautiful melodic arpeggios and intricate rhythmic patterns, Brecker never overdid his solos.
After playing the “Psalm” section with a gorgeous, full sound, Brecker looked as if he might pass out, but he joined the band once again for “Miles Mode,” which featured an impressive tradeoff among the sax section.
Roy Hargrove’s quintet – alto saxophonist Jessie Davis, pianist Larry Willis, bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Willie Jones III – played “Psalm” earlier in the evening as well, and the tight rhythm section followed the trumpeter’s every move, from avant-garde spree to ballad tempo.
For the encore the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Brecker and Hargrove played Frank Foster’s kicking arrangement of “Giant Steps,” which sealed the deal.
The tribute was excellent, but Brecker was the highlight. He honored a masterpiece without sacrificing his signature style.Originally Published