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Sneakin' Up Behind You: The Very Best of the Brecker Brothers

The Brecker Brothers

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Album Review

Say what you will about Philly funk brothers Michael and Randy Brecker, but from their start with the very commercial recordings of their band Dreams, they were as responsible as anyone for the revolution in jazz that embraced more straight-ahead music — funk, easy listening, soul, Caribbean rhythms, and deep grooves. These guys were both crack studio musicians who broke out and brought the funk into mainstream jazz and went right to the dancefloor with it. Consequently, they saw radio and club play more than any other jazz artists who made the transfer, with the possible exception of George Duke. This ten-cut collection spans the Brothers' Arista years from 1975-1981. Disco was flourishing from New York to San Francisco to Miami. As evidenced by the title track, which opens the album, the Brecker Brothers knew how to throw down the funk and keep their jazz tip. The players on some of these sides include David Sanborn, Don Grolnick, Harvey Mason, Will Lee, Steve Khan, Hiram Bullock, Duke, Steve Jordan, Marcus Miller, and more. For evidence of this kind of funky jazz, listen no further than Randy's muted psychedelic solo in the knotty "Some Skunk Funk," with its freaky changes and tangled head lines. Michael's solo follows and struts right through. But the Brothers could lay down ballads too — as in the tropical groove in "Funky Sea, Funky Dew." (You can also tell these cats were so into playing they didn't give much thought to titles.) "Tabula Rasa" is straight-up fusion with a myriad of twists and turns, where "Threesome" is a soul-based tune with jazzy interludes and some great meat-and-potatoes playing by Michael. Bullock's screaming electric guitar enters the fray on "Squish" — which actually feels squishy thanks to Duke's Oberheim Voice polyphonic synthesizer. "Straphangin'" was another hit for the Brothers, with its Baroque opening theme that quickly mutates into groove jazz. The bottom line is that these tunes smoke. If you're a purist, then you're already a lost cause; if you have an adventurous ear and an open mind, this comp is its own kind of mini history of the original jazz-funk movement.

Biography

Formed: 1974 in New York, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

In the '70s, brothers Michael and Randy Brecker co-led a band of New York session big shots that included, at various times, David Sanborn, Don Grolnick, Will Lee, and George Duke, among others. When they chose, the Brecker Brothers Band could be one of the most intelligent and creative fusion outfits. Chief composer/trumpeter Randy's best tunes were structurally unpredictable, melodically intricate, and harmonically complex, inside/out bop heads played in an impossibly precise manner over a bed...
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Sneakin' Up Behind You: The Very Best of the Brecker Brothers, The Brecker Brothers
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