Time Is Of The Essence
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Time Is Of The Essence
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Tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker has offered his horn to countless studio sessions since the late 1960s, many including his own bands. Purists might have considered Brecker's reputation sullied by his association with fusion--especially as performed in the 1970s by the Brecker Brothers, which featured him alongside his brother Randy on trumpet, and later by Steps Ahead--but since the mid-1980s, the tenorist has been on a post-bop roll. Time Is of the Essence extends Brecker's broad command of the styles pioneered during the mid-1960s. He's playing with a veritable supergroup, Pat Metheny adding efficient strums and riffs on guitar and Larry Goldings pillowing the atmosphere on a Hammond B3 organ. Three drummers alternate on the session, with the great Elvin Jones making the most turbulent storm and Bill Stewart providing the most detailed textures. Jeff "Tain" Watts mixes Jones's romping power with a sense of the delicate, loaning Brecker's melodies an added dimension. For his part, Brecker plays hard and fast with absolute proficiency. The tunes are gutsy and sharp, with lots of creative soloing and up-tempo energy. --Andrew Bartlett
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First time I saw MB was in support of his 1987 Impulse! debut at the Great American Music Hall in San Fran. (Wait - that's not true - Steps Ahead did a great show right here in Kzoo, October 1984.) (wait - that wasn't first either - Chick Corea Three Quartets Band, Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, spring 1981 - dawg! well anyway..) He had Mike Stern, Joey Calderazzo (who I'd never heard of before), a bass player (Jeff Andrews maybe?), and Adam Nussbaum. Funny that I can't think of the bass player's name. It wasn't a heavy, but Brecker rarely played with anyone who wasn't, or who wasn't about to be. I say funny, because TIOTE is the only MB release that I can think of where there is no bass player. That's because Larry Goldings was on loan from John Scofield or had escaped Sco's clutches or something. Goldings puts both hands (probably both feet too) to excellent use on the Hammond, which essentially fills up the bass end, while smoothing out the hole in Brecker's otherwise organ-less discography. Not that MB didn't ever have a keyboard player before (in addition to or sometimes just in place of piano) - Good Heavens NO!! Mixing it up with keys and strings (most frequently the 6-er variety) was Brecker's bread and butter. He even seemingly played keyboards himself whenever he ventured into the realm of the Steiner EWI (what a great instrument!). Here, though, on TIOTE, Brecker is *all* tenor and Goldings is *all* B3, and the results go way beyond what we had waited so long for.
At that GAMH date, Brecker seemed to me both like a man possessed and like a brother giving it all away to you at the same time. On TIOTE, it's not like he's holding anything back. He isn't. But he *does* have this extra gear that he can drop it into whenever he wants to. And typically he wants to whenever he hears the call of the drums. Ah, yes, the DRUMS! This album has dream drums! And not just from Jeff "Tain" Watts, who was well incorporated by this time into MB's working routine, in addition to all his Branford stuff and his own stuff and all the other "stuff" that he felt like making time for (obvious pun, yes I'll stop now). Bill Stewart's on board too and isn't HE sensational? I don't care who else is on the gig - if you tell me that Bill Stewart's gonna be playing with a band downtown tonight - I'm gonna be there! And I don't mean that he just thrills you with every move he makes - what I mean is that he integrates himself completely into each piece with his great big ears and plays so... intelligently, that's it. He's also an excellent tune-smith himself, elsewhere. Here on TIOTE, the pens belong to Brecker (5), guitarist Pat Metheny (2), and to Goldings (1), with one more (see below).
"And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, for the *star* of our show ..." (yes, this is where one of those rolls goes). "Ladies and Gents, please welcome Mr. Elveen Jones!!" Jones takes the chair we had always wanted to hear him in, and does he disappoint? Are you kidding? This is Elvin Jones, the man, solid, loose, in the pocket, all over the place, the master of polyrhythm himself on 3 tracks for the millenium. On two of these, there's a spot where everybody else drops out so it's just him and MB, and look out!! At one point during "Outrance", the closer, MB drops out too, and I swear from the next room that it sounds just like a bass and drum duo, but there's no Larry, hands or feet - IT'S ALL ELVIN.
Almost done and I still haven't dropped it (those names). Well, the other star of this show is the George Whitty comp "Renaissance Man", which is so perfectly pulled off in honor of the man who had a reason for talkin' ---t, Mr. Eddie Harris. I can barely go two weeks without having to hear at least this one track from this excellent 5 star album. And I could try to turn this review into my personal tribute to all of the great players represented here, real or channeled, who have left us too soon. But it's probably best to simply close with a paraphrase from the title of a Metheny tune: Every Day I Am Thankful For Your Music.
P.S. Major props go out to sound man James Farber for fantastic services rendered. The balance is wonderful. Leave your controls flat cuz this sucker kicks with no help required.
Mr Brecker has been, and will continue to be, a productive and influential artist in the field of jazz so I suppose we ought to allow him the odd lack lustre performace but this by no means dampens the disappointment. A pleasant cd to listen to but thats it - you cant say any more about it. I'm sorry but if this is what we can expect from Verve come back Impulse, please!!!!
Brecker leads the charge, this time with Larry Goldings on organ, and familiar sideman Metheny on guitar. In my opinion, they hit the ball out of the park on this one.
This time, the focus is really on the music. Often, I think Brecker gets caught up in demonstrating the state of the Tenor (Delta City Blues, My One and Only Love) as only he can. For this one, it's an all hands on deck team effort. The arrangements are great, but it's the hard driving swing that makes this record groove. I think it's absolutely one of Brecker's finest efforts. And check out the drummers on this one. Theey get a chance to really shine, where the songs are well suited to their individual strengths.
Elvin Jones plays like a god, providing herculean drive and swing as always. But, Stewart and Watts match his intensity (as much as anyone else could.)
Goldings is terrific here, and Metheny plays fine as usual. But he also shows a little extra edge, which is always nice.
At the time this came out, I remember a quote by Brecker about how he wore out a few copies of Unity by Larry Young, which featured Joe Henderson's fine Tenor playing matched with Young's organ. With Time of the Essence, Brecker (whether intentional or not) creates a fine tribute to Youngs landmark recording. On Time is of the Essence, Brecker and company created their own matserpiece worthy of comparison.
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This is a milestone and truly stands the test of time.