On this week's Piano Jazz, guest host and pianist Bill Charlap is joined by Randy Brecker and his band — Brecker's wife, Ada Rovatti, tenor saxophone; Jill McCarron, piano; Steve Laspina, bass; and Steve Johns, drums.
In his five decade career, Grammy-winning trumpeter and flugelhorn player Randy Brecker has toured and recorded with artists ranging from Clark Terry, Horace Silver, and Charles Mingus to Frank Sinatra, James Taylor and Frank Zappa.
"Randy's a wonderful musician, and he's worked with so many people --Duke Pearson, Clark Terry, Frank Zappa," says host Marian McPartland. "I liked the tunes as well. 'Moontide' and 'Au Corko Mio' are quite good. And Bill did a great job with the band!"
On this Piano Jazz session , Brecker discusses growing up in the musical proving ground of Philadelphia, and the influence that his father, an amateur pianist and songwriter, had on him and his brother, the late tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker. Randy Brecker began playing on the Philadelphia club scene while still in his teens. After moving to New York in 1966, he worked with groups ranging from Clark Terry's Big Band to Blood Sweat and Tears.
The band opens the show with "There's a Mingus Amonk Us," a tune written by Brecker in the Mingus-inspired key of D-flat that borrows a few notes from Thelonious Monk. Brecker has worked in various incarnations of the Mingus Big Band and also worked with Horace Silver, whom he credits with teaching him to be an effective band leader.
Brecker and company follow the first tune with another original, showcasing his crystal clear tone — the grooving "Shanghigh." He calls this tune a real workhorse, which he has used in a variety of acoustic and electric arrangements. On "Au Corko Mio," written by Ada Rovatti, the group gets into a lilting Celtic vibe, with Brecker tossing in a line from "O Susannah" to end the song.
Brecker talks about the years he spent with the jazz-rock band Dreams, before striking out with his brother Michael to create their own, Grammy-winning band, The Brecker Brothers. "Some Skunk Funk" was one of their most successful tunes, and Brecker and company create a straight ahead rendition of the piece for Piano Jazz.
Composition also plays an important role for Brecker, though not in the academic sense. As he tells guest host Bill Charlap, "Some of the music is somewhat unusual harmonically because basically I was (writing) it by ear." The band continues with "Moontide," a modally-flavored original featuring blistering horn lines over a hypnotic rhythm pattern. To end the session, Charlap joins the band for an expansive exploration of the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein favorite, "All the Things You Are."