Here’s a nice little gem I came across a couple months back. This same configuration of the Mike Stern Group w. Bob Berg was featured here in December 2011. Then it was a couple of renditions of “Friday Night at the Cadillac Club.” I like that tune and those videos, however I think that this tune is more fitting of the group. All four of them stretch, explore, and play with intensity. This performance is from the 1990 Jazzfest Wiesen.
I suppose the real feature for this video is Dennis Chambers’s drum solo, however I think it’s much too long. But a good video overall nonetheless.
This past Friday (01.13) marked the fifth anniversary of Michael Brecker‘s death. His music and musicianship definitely touches me still. Not only was he one of the tenor saxophone’s greatest technicians, but he played with a deep intensity and emotional to match.
Of the many reasons to love Michael’s playing and ethic, one that particularly stands out to me is his stylistic versatility, having attained a great degree of commercial success in pop music while maintaining a career as a heavy, widely-respected jazz musician. His funk and fusion work with his brother Randy in the Brecker Brothers is of course widely known to most musicians, but his work with James Taylor, Joni Mitchell (if you aren’t familiar with Shadows and Light, go buy it right now), and Paul Simon exposed his name and playing to a much wider audience. (His solo on James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” is classic.) And then of course his more straight ahead and avant-garde jazz roots shone brightly in his solo work and that with his longtime collaborators in Saxophone Summit. (His playing was evidence of his deep love for Coltrane’s late period. In fact, it made his passing the day afterAlice Coltrane‘s death that much more eerie.)
While there are hundreds of videos I could choose from, I’ve chosen only a few. This first video is from a Vienna performance of Herbie’s “The Sorcerer” with Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, bassist George Mraz, and drummer Willie Jones III. I saw Michael Brecker live with a variation of this band (with bassist Scott Colley and the always intense Terri Lyne Carrington on drums) a couple months before his disease was made public. Brecker was quite pale, and, though he spent much of the night sitting on a stool or offstage when not playing, he absolutely destroyed Detroit’s Orchestra Hall. Enjoy Herbie ripping it up at the top; Brecker’s solo starts at 3:55.
Just when you thought Brecker had no need for improvements, here’s an excerpt of a 1996 interview with Jazz’s web documentarian Bret Primack:
And what post remembering Michael would be complete with Brecker Brothers’ “Some Skunk Funk”? (With Mike Stern, drummer Dennis Chambers [whom you should recognize from the Stern/Berg post], bassist James Genus, and keyboardist George Whitty.) This is BURNIN’!
Two weeks ago I posted a 1985 Miles Davis performance featuring Bob Berg and John Scofield. Piggybacking on that, this week I’d like to focus Bob Berg and another guitarist: Mike Stern (another Miles alumnus). This time they’re fronting their own band, having each moved on from being sidemen to the Prince of Darkness.
Berg’s “Friday Night at the Cadillac Club” is a fun and funky blues, especially with Stern. (I like bassist Lincoln Goines; Dennis Chambers‘s drumming is pretty static, but that somewhat comes with the funk-ish territory.) This particular tune sticks out in my mind after having seen Berg in what turned out to be his final year. (I saw him in February 2002, and he was killed in an car accident that December.) I whistled that melody to myself for weeks afterward.
Both of the videos are from 1990. The first is from Japan’s 1990 Newport Jazz Festival. (Enjoy the ubiquitous Budweiser ads throughout the festival grounds.) I prefer the solos in this first video, but the sound quality is better in the second (though the first is good enough). Beware the hideous cuts around the second chorus of each solo in the second video, however. (That’s why it’s not the main video in this post.) Music aside, someone should have suggested that Bob pack a second outfit for this tour. 🙂 But, at least his fashion sense drastically improved after 1985!
Note: I’ve tried to make a habit thus far of largely avoiding material that’s also available for purchase on DVD. However, sometimes it’s unavoidable, and this time, because of cuts, it’s advantageous.
Miles is without peer, that’s a given. He’s one of my Top 5 (along with TOOL, Dave Matthews Band, John Coltrane, and Smashing Pumpkins), my own personal Hall of Legends that cannot be paralleled. I can assure y’all that this will be the first of likely many Miles entries in this series. Not only does my love of Miles’s music run deep, but it also runs wide. Yes, the early stuff with Bird is great, as is the Prestige era. And yes, I have almost his entire Columbia output. However, one period that often gets written off (and not without some justification) is his 1980-91 “comeback,” of which I’m a staunch defender. Sure, his playing wasn’t what it once was, and the music was different (but not worse or “less than”). However, Miles remained on top of his game in one department: bandleader.
Thought not as audience-friendly and/or extroverted as Duke, Miles knew how to assemble a band and get the best out of each musician. This is as apparent in 1985 as it was with the “First Quintet,” “Second Quintet,” and the various fusion bands of the 70s. Consider, for instance, his 1981 lineup of Bill Evans (sax), Mike Stern, Marcus Miller, Mino Cinelu, and Al Foster. With a powerhouse band like that, Miles is simply the Dude’s Rug.
This week’s video is an excerpt of one of Miles’s 1980s staple openers, “One Phone Call,” from 1985. (It went through many iterations before and after, but that was the name given for the studio release on 1985’s You’re Under Arrest.) It can be found on one of my favorite Miles DVDs, Miles Davis: Live In Montreal. While this particular YouTube video is missing the opening vamp, trumpet solo, and melody, it focuses on the real meat & potatoes: solos by the late Bob Berg and John Scofield. (Also, you don’t have to hear Vince Wilburn, Jr. – the band’s weak link & Miles’s nephew – drop the tempo, or see the rest of the band push him along.) I actually prefer the (accidental) slower tempo to earlier incarnations with Al Foster, but it would’ve been nice had Foster stuck around another year for this performance. Regardless, this clip is funky – it should get you out of your seat!
There’s not much more to say other than BOB BERG and JOHN SCOFIELD! They destroy, as only they can do. And Darryl Jones’s thumb is hard to ignore… (too bad he can’t do this kind of stuff at his current gig!)