HORN OF PLENTY - Randy Brecker Talks About Big Bands, Reminiscences About Art Blakey, And Recalls How The Brecker Brothers Sprang From A Solo Project.

Friday, 15 February 2019 15:26 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


"Music is a mystery," laughs the Philly horn maestro Randy Brecker, talking to me from deepest Germany. Given that he's been playing the trumpet for 65 years, since he was eight, and is revered as a master of his chosen instrument, that might seem like a curious thing to say, but Brecker is in a philosophical mood and reveals that musicians, even great ones like him, are not robots or automatons. Even they have their off days. Though he has appeared on hundreds of recordings - from albums by jazz greats such as  Horace Silver and Stanley Turrentine to rock stars Lou Reed and Aerosmith - he confesses that he has endured times when his muse and ability to play his horn seemed to have deserted him altogether.

"Sometimes it feels great, but sometimes, like yesterday in the afternoon, for instance, I could barely play," discloses the 73-year-old, recalling a German jazz festival he performed at the day before this interview. "We were rehearsing and my chops felt terrible," he confides. "I had come from France and hadn't had any sleep so I got very nervous for the gig at night because I was so tired and in the dressing room I kept falling asleep." It got to the point where Brecker felt so bad that he felt he couldn't perform. "Right before the concert, I kept saying, 'I can't do this,' but then, lo and behold, we went out there on stage and it sounded great. My chops came to life. I could play anything and the band, the Cologne funkateers with whom we had just briefly rehearsed, sounded great."

Perhaps it's not so much that music is a mystery, then, but that its creators, human beings, are a mystery. But there's nothing remotely mysterious about Randy Brecker's long and illustrious career, which has brought him numerous accolades and a Grammy award. He was a child prodigy who was born into a music-obsessed Philadelphia family. Raised on jazz, he rose to become one of the most accomplished trumpeters of his generation. As a young man, in the late '60s he played in the big bands of Mel Lewis & Thad Jones, Clark Terry and Duke Pearson before enjoying stints in the Horace Silver Quintet and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. His career began just as hard bop was being eclipsed by jazz-rock but he made the transition to the new and exciting fusion genre via the groundbreaking group, Dreams, with whom he recorded two LPs. After that, plenty of session work kept him busy and then in the mid 70s, he led the Brecker Brothers, alongside his saxophone-playing brother, Michael, and altoist, David Sanborn. The group's distinctive brand of brassy jazz-funk led to a US hit single ('Sneakin' Up Behind You') and six albums for Arista Records between 1975 and 1981. Although Brecker had released his debut solo album as far back as 1969 for the Solid State label - it was called 'Score' and produced by Blue Note stalwart, Duke Pearson - he didn't resume his solo career until almost twenty years later, in 1987.

Since then, Brecker has released solo albums at regular junctures - his 1997 LP, 'Into The Sun,' won him a Grammy - and now he is just about to unleash a new project recorded in tandem with Germany's NDR  big band. It's called 'Rocks' and features his saxophone-playing wife, Ava Rovatti, as well as saxophone legend, David Sanborn. In an exclusive interview with SJF's Charles Waring, Randy Brecker shed light on his new venture and talked at length about his storied career...

Last Updated on Friday, 22 February 2019 16:49


LIFE LESSONS - Ben Sidran Talks About Performing, America's Cultural War And The State Of Jazz.

Monday, 05 November 2018 20:18 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

             alt"Renaissance Man" and "polymath" are just two of the epithets that have been applied to BEN SIDRAN in an attempt to describe his impressive multiplicity of talents. On the music side, he's a noted singer, songwriter, pianist, producer, and even a record company owner (he ran the label Go Jazz between 1989 and 2003 and now oversees a newer company, Nardis) but if that isn't impressive enough, he's also an author (to date, he's written five books), a respected cultural commentator, and an award-winning broadcaster. He is, then, a man who wears many hats, though he's certainly no dilettante or a jack of all trades: rather, everything he puts his hand - or mind - to, he masters completely and with apparent ease.  

Though Sidran is primarily regarded as a jazz musician, early on in his career he was a member of the American rock group, the Steve Miller Band, and co-wrote their classic track, 'Space Cowboy,' and also did sessions with Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. His own solo career, though, which began in 1971, saw him plough a unique stylistic furrow, melding pop and funk with bebop and an appreciation of wit and wordplay inherited from his hero, Mose Allison.

Now 75, Sidran, who has recorded almost forty albums (his last one, 'Picture Him Happy,' came out in 2017), is the focus of a new, lovingly-curated retrospective which distils forty years of live recordings down to 3 CDs and 27 songs. It's called 'Ben There, Done That: Ben Sidran Live Around The World (1975-2015)' and captures the singer-songwriter on stage in Japan, Europe (England, Italy, Spain, and France) and his native USA. It functions like a sonic time machine that transports the listener back to different junctures in Sidran's storied career, ultimately painting a vivid portrait of an artist evolving over the years. On some of the set's earliest performances - like an incendiary1975 version of Dizzy Gillespie's 'Birk's Works' -  Sidran is musically on fire, playing febrile, bop-inflected piano lines, while on later tracks - a 2015 rendition of 'The Groove Is Gonna Get You,' for example - he is perceptibly more relaxed and at ease on stage; and crucially, settling into a deeper, more luxuriant groove, seemingly both in music and in life.

SJF's Charles Waring recently caught up with Ben Sidran, who not only shed light on his new album project but also talked at length about different aspects of his long career...

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 November 2018 19:18


THE FULL BRAZILIAN - singer/songwriter ED MOTTA waxes lyrical about fine wine, Steely Dan, and finding perfection

Thursday, 27 September 2018 14:33 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

       altEd Motta is a remarkable man on several levels. Firstly, he's an accomplished singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who, because of his stylistic versatility and chameleonic eclecticism, has been dubbed Brazil's answer to Prince. Secondly, he's renowned globally among fellow crate-diggers as an avid and obsessive record collector, who, at the last count,  had in excess of 30,000 LPs propping up the walls to his house. And thirdly, he's noted for his passion for the good things in life, which include food and wine (for many years he wrote about viniculture in Brazilian newspapers and magazines). But that's not all, Motta possesses an encyclopaedic knowledge of many subjects - he's an avowed cinema buff who loves old movies and is also fervent devotee of sci-fi novels and comic books. His talents and interests are multifarious and he's erudite to the extent that he could be declared an "expert" on many topics. He is, then, what many would call a "Renaissance Man."

Outside of his native Brazil, though, Motta's best known for his endeavours in the field of popular music. He's been making albums since the late 1980s (initially as part of a group, Conexão Japeri)  but like the fine wine that he loves so passionately, he's begun to mature nicely during the last five years, releasing, arguably, what can be regarded as the most accomplished and satisfying albums of his career. His releases had been remarkably varied up until 2013 when he changed direction and released 'AOR,' his painstakingly stylish homage to American Adult Oriented Rock, a set that contained palpable traces of Steely Dan in its musical DNA.

Motta continued to follow a similar trajectory with the superb 'Perpetual Gateways' in 2015, though it was the first album where he handed over the production reins to someone else. Fast forward to September 2018 and the Rio de Janeiro-born polymath has just unveiled his latest LP, 'Criterion Of The Senses.' It is arguably Ed Motta's masterwork and the culmination of what he set out to do with 'AOR' five years ago when he first explored the world of that much-maligned genre, "Yacht Rock." 

'Criterion Of The Senses' is to Ed Motta's catalogue what 'Aja' is to Steely Dan's - sonic perfection. Every facet of it functions at an optimal level - from the vocals, lyrics and song arrangements right down to chords and even the placement of individual notes. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is superfluous. Every piece fits. Though it's a relatively short album by today's standards (eight songs with a running time of 34 minutes), as an artistic statement, it's complete. But that shouldn't surprise anyone who knows Ed Motta. He obsesses about perfection in everything, as he tells SJF's Charles Waring...  

Last Updated on Friday, 28 September 2018 12:17


ONE OF THESE DAYS....The Paul Carrack interview

Tuesday, 11 September 2018 19:16 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altLast time we spoke with the genial PAUL CARRACK was in 2013. It was on the back of the release of his 'Rain or Shine' long player... we asked him then how and why he kept going after such a lengthy and garlanded career... five years down the line, Sheffield's finest is still hard at work. He's just released a new album, 'These Days' and he's lining up another lengthy tour. So when we met up we posed the same question... what's the motivation to keep going, to keep writing/recording and touring? Why not retire and buy that speed boat on the Isle of Wight (the one pictured on the cover of the new album) and live comfortably..... you must have a few bob by now?

Well, you never know, I might live to be 100 and I definitely don't want to be skint in my old age. It was OK being penniless in my youth but I wouldn't fancy it when I'm in my dotage. Besides, I can't think of anything else to do. I've invested too much blood and treasure into this 'career ' to stop now.

OK, the new album's just out ... how long has it taken you to put together?

It's hard to say because it's been done in stages. I started writing last year in between touring. (By the way there was another album, 'Soul Shadows', after 'Rain or Shine'). I was basically recording by myself and with my son, Jack, as I've done many times before, but decided to take the opportunity of bringing in drummer Steve Gadd, who I was working with in Eric Clapton's band and Robbie McIntosh on Guitar. We had to wait until Steve finished touring with Chic Correa. We recorded basic tracks over three days in November 2017 and started overdubs at my place until various touring commitments meant we had to put it on hold again.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 September 2018 19:35


The Genie - Keyboard Wiz Bob James Talks To SJF

Tuesday, 04 September 2018 13:00 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

   altDepending on which generation you belong to and where your musical allegiances lie, keyboard legend Bob James is either the father of smooth jazz or the godfather of hip-hop. Though ostensibly a jazz musician whose breakthrough came at CTI Records in the mid-1970s when he pioneered an accessible, radio-friendly brand of jazz fusion, this genial Missouri musician discovered in the late '80s that his music was being plundered for samples by hip-hop producers in search of ready-made grooves and break-beats. To date, James is the 14th most sampled musician of all time (in pole position is James Brown, of course), something which he's simultaneously both mystified by and tremendously proud of.  "I'm still shocked," laughs James, "but it's wonderful and a reminder to me that throughout my career as a composer who has attempted to handle my copyrights as well as I can, the more that you can keep control over your work, the better, because you never know when something is going to be at the right place at the right time."

Hip-hop's love affair with James' back catalogue over the last 30 years has undoubtedly been a lucrative source of income for the 78-year-old pianist, bringing in a steady stream of royalty payments that have certainly made his life more comfortable. But James is not one for resting on his laurels and has never, seemingly, contemplated retirement. Though his last solo album proper was in 2013 ('Alone: Kaleidoscope By Solo Piano'), he's not been idle, contributing to smooth jazz supergroup Fourplay's 2016 album, 'Silver,' and taking part in collaborations with alto saxophonist David Sanborn ('Quartette Humaine'), bass player, Nathan East ('The New Cool'), and flautist Nancy Stagnitta ('In The Chapel In The Moonlight'). Now, in the late summer of 2018  James has elected to return to the fray with a new solo venture, 'Espresso,' on the Evosound label. It's a trio album featuring the talents of bassist, Michael Palazzolo, and drummer, Billy Kilson. In the following interview, he talks at length to SJF's Charles Waring, not only about his new album but also key junctures of his storied career...

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 September 2018 07:22


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