Monday, November 20, 2017

The Brecker Brothers - 1978 [2007] "Heavy Metal Be-Bop"

Heavy Metal Be-Bop is a live album by the American jazz fusion group, the Brecker Brothers that was released by Arista Records in 1978. The album also includes the studio track "East River", which reached number 34# in the UK singles chart in November 1978.

Recorded live in New York, this explosive set of jazz, funk, and rock material was without question ahead of its time. Michael and Randy's use of electronically altered saxophone and trumpet sounds is amazing.

This is just an absolute JEWEL. Zappa fans will recognize Terry Bozzio in addition to the Brecker brothers themselves, and MAN, what a combo! Michael Brecker just shreds on every solo, and Randy finds nuances with the "electric trumpet" that have never been heard before or since. Some will want this for the novelty of the electric tenor sax and trumpet, but there are FINE examples of modern BeBop solos here, over a high-powered rhythm section that kicks and jumps all over everything the soloists lay down. This is the kind of rhythm section that can make ANYBODY sound good, but the Brecker brothers talent is unmatched; a combination that presents an order of magnitude. Bass players NEED to hear Neil Jason, and guitar players NEED to hear Barry Finnerty on this. Blistering tight unison lines will prove once again why Zappa saved his most intricate horn passages for these guys, and why you won't hear them at tempo with anybody else. I sincerely hope for more of this largely unexplored flavor of jazz. I haven't found anything else that quite measures up to this.

"Heavy Metal Be-Bop" is a land mark fusion recording. The first tune is from the studio and the rest are recorded from a smoking live set. "East River" is the studio tune and is vocal. The song has a funky bassline and is fun but compared to the rest of the disc it is out of place. The rest of the disc is unreal. The band consists of Neal Jason on bass, Barry Finnerty on guitar, Terry Bozzio on drums, Michael Brecker on Sax, and Randy Brecker on trumpet. "Inside Out" is a Randy Brecker tune and Randy, Michael and Barry all have some fun with it. The tune is basic (For the Brecker Brothers) and they all play over the groove set by Bozzio/Jason. "Some Skunk Funk" is another Randy Brecker composition and a classic. This is one of the funkiest tunes that I have ever heard and the brothers play some of the greatest horn lines that you will ever hear. There are also some unison lines and the power of the band is on par with metal. "Sponge" is another funky piece and it features the explosive drumming of Bozzio. The band trades fours throughout Bozzio's rhythmic wizardry. "Funky sea, Funky Dew' is a Michael Brecker extravaganza. He takes the studio version and improves on it. Not only is his playing during the song great but there is a solo at the end that is amazing and then he is joined by just the bass of Jason which elevates him to a level that is beyond words. "Squids" is the closer to this set and has the brothers ,once again, playing over some serious funk. This disc is one of the greatest I've ever heard and is the greatest Horn orientated fusion disc ever. I only wish that there were more than five live songs but those five are worth any price. As highly recommended as anything can be.

This is the most incredible music ever, no BB album has surpassed this. A live album with Terry Bozzio having just joined the band after leaving Frank Zappa. The version of Some Skunk Funk is worth the whole price. Phenomenal! Will leave you out of breath and panting for more. One studio track kind of ok, an attempt at top 40, but the rest is - wow! Line up is guitar, bass, drums and Breckers. Randy plays some organ and uses a harmonizer to add 5ths and 4ths to his trumpet, so it sounds like more than just 2 horn players. Just hard to imagine what this would have been like to see live. Too bad it wasn't a double album when it was released in the late 70's. I want more of this!

While artists more often than not look for an album title that in some way reflects the music contained within, few have come up with a name that, in three simple words, says it all as much as today's Rediscovery: The Brecker Brothers' Heavy Metal Bebop. A positively incendiary live recording (barring bassist Neil Jason's funkified, studio-recorded, set-opening vocal anthem, "East River"), it sports a completely revamped lineup from the group's Don't Stop the Music (Arista), released the previous year. While this album was reviewed as part of Legacy Recordings' 2012 box set, The Complete Arista Albums Collection, its sheer power and raw energy demanded inclusion as a Rediscovery.

And, as expected, it sounds absolutely tremendous through my Tetra Speaker rig. This is an album that—featuring a core quintet where saxophonist Michael Brecker and trumpeter Randy Brecker are joined, in addition to Jason, by guitarist Barry Finnerty and drummer Terry Bozzio, with additional percussion and overdubs added in post-production—rips through some of the best material from the group's earlier albums, including a light speed version of "Some Skunk Funk" and slightly faster, even more nuclear-infused take on "Sponge," both from the group's 1975 Arista debut, The Brecker Bros.

A slight breather comes with Don't Stop the Music's generally mellower "Funky Sea, Funky Dew," Michael's only compositional contribution to the set. Still, an extended a cappella and heavily processed saxophone outro is both an album highlight and demonstration of why Michael was already one of the most influential saxophonists of his generation...and would go on to become even more so in the decades leading to his untimely passing in 2007 at the too-young age of 57. A closing "Squids," from the same record, also feels less wholly unfettered than the album's first three live tracks, but still possessed more attitude and energy per square inch at a time when fusion was, in general, slowly morphing its way into the easier-on- the-ears predecessor to what would ultimately become smooth jazz. The album's only previously unheard live track is also its first live one: Randy's potently altered blues, "Inside Out," played with a greasy shuffle from Jason and Bozzio that, quite simply, means it.

Throughout this 42-minute set—all but three of them recorded live at My Father's Place in Roslyn, NY—the entire band plays as if its life depended on it. Michael Brecker soars, while older brother Randy (similarly processing his horn with a harmonizer, envelope filter and more) matches his younger sibling's energy note for searing note, the pair seemingly unable to play anything but the right note at the right time—except, occasionally, when they played the wrong note at precisely the right time...because with music this unshackled, there are no wrong notes, just ones that drive the player(s) in unexpected directions. While rarely featured, Jason and Bozzio keep the pulse at a fever pitch throughout, thundering where necessary—especially on the high octane "Sponge" where, with a new solo section, a three-way trade-off between the two Breckers and Finnerty represents the album at its most reckless, raw and relentless—but laying back as required with equal aplomb.

The surprise of the set is, however, Finnerty. Having first heard the guitarist on a live radio broadcast of the Crusaders, playing a solo to the title track of keyboardist Joe Sample's Rainbow Seeker (ABC, 1978) that remains memorable to this day, it was clear that he may have had big shoes to fill in replacing Larry Carlton in that group but—clearly imbued with similar chops and linguistic command—the guitarist brought an edgier New York vibe and completely different kind of lyricism to the successful Texan-centric West Coast group.

So, when finally hearing Heavy Metal Bebop for the first time—a little late to the game, a couple years after it was first released—I already knew he had all he needed to not just match the two Breckers, but to actually up the ante. While the Breckers take the lion's share of the solo space, every time Finnerty is featured it's a revelation...and all the more a crime that, despite remaining active in the ensuing years, the guitarist has never managed to garner the broader acclaim he deserves—if nothing else based on his contribution to Heavy Metal Bebop but, with Miles Davis, Billy Cobham, Hubert Laws and Eliane Elias also in his résumé, clearly possessing even more.

Tracks Listing

1.East River (3:38)
2.Inside Out (9:32)
3.Some Skunk Funk (7:01 )
4.Sponge (6:24)
5.Funky Sea,Funky Dew (8:03)
6.Squids (7:57 )

Total Time 41:55


- Randy Brecker / electric trumpet, keyboards
- Michael Brecker / electric tenor sax
- Barry Finnerty / guitars, GuitarGanizer, background vocals
- Terry Bozzio / drums, background vocals
- Neil Jason / bass, lead vocals

Additional Musicians

- Sammy Figueroa / percussion
- Rafael Cruz / percussion
- Kask Monet / handclaps, percussion, background vocals
- Jeff Schoen / background vocals
- Roy Herring / background vocals
- Paul Schaeffer / fender rhodes
- Victoria / tambourine
- Alan Schwartzberg / drums
- Bob Clearmountain & friends / handclaps