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The Brecker Brothers reunite to create a vibrant and powerful new album

The Brecker Brothers
Return of the Brecker Brothers.
GRP Records.

By Douglas D. Keller
Photography Editor

The Brecker Brothers of the 1970s were on the cutting edge of jazz-funk-fusion, garnering a string of critical and commercial successes. The brothers, Randy and Michael, broke up in 1982 and began solo careers. After ten years, they have come back together and have put their solo experiences to good use on The Return of the Brecker Brothers

Randy and Michael Brecker are well-known in the jazz world for their trumpet and saxophone virtuosity. Fans of Paul Simon might remember Michael as the front-line saxophonist on Simon's Rhythm of the Saints project. Classic rockers might remember that Randy was a part of the horn line for the original Blood Sweat and Tears. The brothers have been sought by the likes of James Taylor, Frank Zappa, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and others for studio work. In fact, they collectively have appeared on over 1800 recordings.

As the Brecker Brothers defined jazz-funk-fusion in the 70s, so too their triumphant return combines straight jazz, funk, drum machines, keyboard samplings, reggae, and African rhythms into an eclectic and engaging album. One of the most entertaining tracks is "That's All There is to It," a reggae-styled piece written by Randy which features Randy on vocals in a non-singing style comparable to that of Lou Reed.

The tracks on Return of the Brecker Brothers are peppered with Randy's artful trumpeting and Michael's inventive saxophone play. Michael also makes extensive use of his EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) to complement Randy's trumpet. At times the tracks become an exchange of riffs between the brothers, but they all have the ever-present back-beat of guitar and drums. The brothers are joined on the album by, among others, David Sanborn, Mike Stern, Armand Sabal-Lecco (bassist for Paul Simon), and Boston's own Dennis Chambers on drums.

The beauty and power of Return of the Brecker Brothers lies in the skill of the brothers to write pieces of varying intensity and style. Slow pieces such as "Sozinho (Alone)" seem perfectly at home with funk numbers like "King of the Lobby." What results is a rich tapestry full of vibrant play, an engaging album that never fails to surprise and delight the listener.

The Brecker Brothers are poised to redefine jazz for the '90s and beyond, creating a style that will include world rhythms, technological innovations, and standard jazz chops.