Randy Brecker with the DR Big Band – The Jazz Ballad Song Book – Red Dot Music/ Half Note Records

by | Jul 3, 2011 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Randy Brecker with the DR Big Band – The Jazz Ballad Song Book – Red Dot Music/ Half Note Records RDM012, 70:39 ****:

(Randy Brecker, trumpet with the Danish Radio Big Band and The Danish National Chamber Orchestra)

Randy Brecker has been on the scene for over four decades. After studying classical trumpet at Indiana University, Randy joined Blood, Sweat, and Tears, and then Horace Silver’s quintet. Following forays into big band, fusion and funk, Brecker teamed with his late brother, saxophonist Michael, on the Brecker Brothers, who concentrated on funk in the late 70s. However, for over the last two plus decades, Randy has concentrated on bop and hard bop.

On his latest release, Randy gets the rare opportunity (always hard to pass up) to be the guest soloist behind a big band and chamber orchestra. Focusing on the jazz ballad song book with eight out of the ten selections being true standards, Brecker gets a chance to explore his lyrical side. Danish Big Band members arranged nearly all the tracks and most tracks have solos by band members. However, the focus is on Randy’s playing and Brecker is easily up to the task.

The project is conducted by Michael Bojesen, and noted Danish bass player Chris Minh Doky produced this CD. The Chamber Orchestra provides sympathetic backing for Brecker, and at times the CD has a classical orchestra hall feel with guest big band and soloist. Think dress suits and a toney setting, though this CD was recorded at DR Byen studio in Copenhagen in January, 2010.

The Big Band is made up of five trumpets (besides Brecker), and five each of trombone and reeds. There is a straight four-piece rhythm section with guitar. Brecker plays over the instrumentalists on the tracks. His playing is center stage, with the Big Band and Orchestra getting equal footing. There is a lushness on tracks like “Cry Me a River,” “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “Skylark” that is warm and inviting. Brecker’s lyrical skills are round, warm, and crystal clear in the mid-register range.

Film favorites “Goldfinger” and “The Immigrant/ Godfather" are included, with especially the latter adding a nourish dreamy quality that adds to the accessibility of this release. Even Monk is taken on with strings on “Round Midnight” and several of the tracks would fit in well on a movie set or outdoor bowl concert setting.

For fans of warm trumpet, ballads, and string accompaniment, the Jazz Ballad Song Book comes highly recommended. It is also a feather in the cap of a trumpeter, who can fit in nicely in most any setting.

TrackList: All or Nothing, Cry Me a River, Someday My Prince Will Come, Foregone Conclusion, Goldfinger, Skylark, I Talk to the Trees, This is All I Ask, The Immigrant/ Godfather, Round Midnight

— Jeff Krow

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