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Pilgrimage

Michael Brecker

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Album Review

Given the heartbreaking context in which this album was released — this was the final recording by saxophonist Michael Brecker, who died of myelodysplastic syndrome and leukemia only a few months before its release — there might be a certain temptation to cut it some slack for sentimental reasons. However, leniency is hardly needed. Leading a group comprised of jaw-dropping talents (pianists Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau, guitarist Pat Metheny, bassist John Patitucci, drummer Jack DeJohnette) and playing for the first time a program consisting entirely of original compositions, Brecker delivers an emotionally rich and startlingly powerful album of straight-ahead modern jazz that will stand as his musical epitaph and will effectively confound anyone who has ever been tempted to dismiss him as a mere jazz-pop fusioneer. It will also frustrate anyone looking for maudlin emotion or even any obvious product of existential angst; the only concession to sentiment here is on the title of a ballad, "When Can I Kiss You Again?," a quote from Brecker's teenage son during a period in his treatment when his family was not allowed to touch him. But even that track, with its unusual chord progression and sometimes rather arid solos, retains a core of tough-mindedness within the tenderness. Most of the rest of the program consists of uptempo and medium-tempo burners that swing with a powerful sense of urgency and life, and precious little foreshadowing of the tragedy that all involved knew was soon to come. This is a brilliant and inspiring album — and would be whether or not it had anything to do with the death of one of the great figures in American jazz. This CD was nominated in 2007 for a Grammy award as Best Jazz Instrumental Album (Individual or Group), and Brecker's improvisation on "Anagram" was nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo.

Biography

Born: 29 March 1949 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Jazz

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

A remarkable technician and a highly influential tenor saxophonist (the biggest influence on other tenors since Wayne Shorter), Michael Brecker took a long time before getting around to recording his first solo album. He spent much of his career as a top-notch studio player who often appeared...
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Pilgrimage, Michael Brecker
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