Michael Brecker

Wide Angles

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An early 2002 tour of the U.K. found Michael Brecker playing his old material with a larger band that included some instruments usually falling outside the standard jazz combo (i.e., oboe, French horn). Perhaps a live recording of the genesis of this album would have been preferable since Wide Angles provides such mixed results. For such a large band with so many great players, it all ends up being window-dressing. The recording makes Brecker the center of attention, and despite some truly lyrical playing, there's little interaction between soloist and ensemble. The ten tracks (nine by Brecker with Don Grolnick's "Evening Faces," the exception) are a suite, according to Brecker and arranger Gil Goldstein. When it sticks to the cerebral and introspective, it flows very well. Even if he isn't paying much attention to what's going on behind him, Brecker is at least expressive and as inspired as ever. The standard-issue fusion and funk of "Night Jessamine," where the quindectet are totally superfluous, trips things up and should have been left to a smaller unit. With so much focus on the tenor saxophonist, Brecker fanatics will justifiably go ape. Listeners wanting to hear mainstream bassist John Patitucci, the usually experimental violinist Mark Feldman, or any of the other capable players interacting will find their roles too supportive.

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