Randy Brecker's debut album features the trumpeter leading two distinct all-star small groups, each with younger brother Michael (who was only 19 when this was recorded) on tenor sax, Larry Coryell on guitar, and Hal Galper on piano. The tunes alternate between jazz-rock (a style the Brecker Brothers were later to successfully exploit) and modern mainstream jazz. There are the customary fades, popular at the time, and a light, though constant, beat throughout that makes the music both accessible and even danceable, an impressive feat considering that virtually all the tunes are originals. The Brecker Brothers exhibit a command of their horns and a maturity that was to serve them well for many years. The recording has weathered the years well, in part because even the fusion pieces never lose their focus, nor do they compromise artistry for popular fads.
Recorded live in New York, this explosive set of jazz, funk, and rock material was without question ahead of its time. Michael and Randy's use of electronically altered saxophone and trumpet sounds is amazing.
Why is this the first and only official live release by The Brecker Brothers Band, you ask? Perhaps surprisingly, it documents a group that rarely played live, much less toured extensively. This is due in part to a 1970 s music world with the constraints of a vital studio scene, wherein virtuoso musicians were kept busy tracking for television, movies, commercials, and all styles of solo spots and horn sections – regardless of musical style. We were making a living in the recording studios, recalls Brecker. The clubs paid next to nothing, as did ‘opening act’ gigs. Clive Davis was always begging us to go out on the road, but we weren’t going to blow the studio work.
On Out of the Loop, Randy and Michael Brecker stepped up to the plate with their second long-player of the '90s, 20 years after their first foray into the jazz-funk-fusion realm. The album is surprisingly strong, and any fears of a paint-by-numbers attempt to cash in on past glories are quickly dispelled with the opening "Slang," which is reminiscent of Amandla-era Miles. Here, as throughout the disc, Michael's sax solo burns with abandon, while brother Randy's trumpet glides across a tastefully smooth and melodic terrain.
This 1977 effort continues their hitmaking streak of one of fusion and R&B's durable and respected units. While this album's predecessor, Back to Back, was credited to the Brecker Brothers Band and featured members including David Sanborn and Steve Khan, it came off as underdone and facile. Don't Stop the Music does present their gifts in a more cogent fashion, but not without a few odd detours.
With the tragic passing of Michael Brecker in 2007 at the all-too-young age of 57, it seemed that the flagship group the Brecker Brothers, co-led by the saxophonist with his trumpet-wielding older brother Randy, was also to be a thing of the past. But some things never die; as it was, during the saxophonist's lifetime, the horn-led band that defined the term "downtown funk" and an edgy, urban sound that could only have come from New York City seemed to have an unquenchable life clearly fated to continue, even as the brothers separated at various points to pursue other projects.
The early '80s were a confusing time for many a jazz musician. The temptation to dabble in such waters as disco, funk, and rock was a risky proposition: pull it off and you were a genius, fail and you were the laughing stock of the industry. Falling somewhere in the large grey area between those two poles, the Brecker Brothers started the decade with Straphangin', a seven-song excursion into all sorts of fusion and AOR-like territories.