Friday, June 8, 2018

Michael Brecker - 1996 "Tales from the Hudson"

Tales from the Hudson is Michael Brecker's fourth album as a leader. It was recorded at the Power Station in New York City. It was recorded in 1996. The album also won Brecker two Grammy awards for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo (for his solo on "Cabin Fever") and Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group.

Michael Brecker, a major influence on today's young saxophonists, shows off his own influences a bit throughout this fine modern straight-ahead set. Brecker sounds surprisingly like Stanley Turrentine on parts of "Midnight Voyage," and otherwise displays his roots in Ernie Watts and John Coltrane. With the exception of Don Grolnick's "Willie T.," the music on the CD is comprised of group originals (five by the leader) and falls into the 1990s mainstream of jazz. While the tenor saxophonist has plenty of blowing space (really letting loose on the exciting closer, "Cabin Fever"), Pat Metheny is mostly pretty restrained (in a Jim Hall bag) except for his wild solo on guitar synth during "Song for Bilbao." Pianist Joey Calderazzo starts out sounding a bit like McCoy Tyner on "Slings and Arrows" before his own musical personality is revealed. When Tyner himself plays on "Song for Bilbao" (one of two guest appearances), one can certainly tell the difference between master and pupil. All of Michael Brecker's recordings as a leader (as opposed to his cameos as a sideman on pop records) are easily recommended and show why he is considered a giant by many listeners.

In the crowded field of excellent tenor players, Michael Brecker rises to the top of my list. I think the thing that gives Brecker an edge over the others is the fact that he is a master of so many genres of jazz. Many people are no doubt familiar with the electric, funky side of Michael Brecker as the co-leader of the Brecker Brothers and former member of Steps Ahead. He has done significant pop dates with Paul Simon, Carly Simon, and Joni Mitchell. One could easily fill a CD collection with albums on which he has performed as a sideman in many jazz contexts.

Yet this is only his fourth CD as a leader. All of them have been in the modern, progressive, straight-ahead jazz vein. This one is, to my ears, his most successful outing yet. I think the difference is that this one is a little less "progressive" or "outside." The melodies here are a little more accessible and memorable, yet the soloing is just as creative and adventuresome as we have come to expect from Brecker and the other jazz luminaries on this CD. The top-notch team of sidemen here are Pat Metheny on guitar, Jack DeJohnette on drums, Dave Holland on bass, and Joey Calderazzo on piano. Pianist McCoy Tyner and percussionist Don Alias are added on two tunes.

Six of the nine compositions are Brecker's. They are varied, thoughtful, and provide great vehicles for improvisation. Metheny contributes "Bilbao" from his Travels album, Calderazzo contributes a medium tempo swinger, and "Willie T." comes from the late pianist Don Grolnick, who produced Brecker's first two solo albums and performed with Brecker frequently.

I would especially recommend this album to those who have come to jazz through the "new adult comtemporary" door and are ready to take the next step towards discovering what real jazz is all about.

Brecker, whose tenor saxophone has graced pop performances by James Taylor and Paul Simon as well as plenty of straight-ahead jazz sessions, can be as exciting as any jazzman alive. His solos have a way of rising to a quick boil and catching you up in their immediacy. This happens several times on this album, an all-star date with guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist Joey Calderazzo or McCoy Tyner, bassist Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette and guest percussionist Don Alias. It happens on Metheny’s “Song for Bilboa,” where Brecker chomps at the chord changes in a manner reminiscent of John Coltrane on “Out of This World” (from the album, Coltrane). It happens on “Willie T.” as he sweeps up to a swirling, raspy-toned climax with the drums knocking heatedly underneath. And it happens on “Cabin Fever,” an uptempo tour de force with Brecker cruising like a high-speed steamroller.

The tenor man’s estimable sidemen are in aggressive jazz form. They, too, seem caught up in the electric

Track listing:
All tracks composed by Michael Brecker; except where indicated

01 "Slings and Arrows" – 6:19
02 "Midnight Voyage" (Joey Calderazzo) – 7:17
03 "Song for Bilbao" (Pat Metheny) – 5:44
04 "Beau Rivage" – 7:38
05 "African Skies" – 8:12
06 "Introduction to Naked Soul" (Michael Brecker, Dave Holland) – 1:14
07 "Naked Soul" – 8:43
08 "Willie T." (Don Grolnick) – 8:13
09 "Cabin Fever" – 6:59


Michael Brecker – tenor saxophone
Pat Metheny – guitar, guitar synthesizer
Joey Calderazzo – piano
Dave Holland – double bass
Jack DeJohnette – drums
McCoy Tyner – piano (tracks 3 and 5)
Don Alias – percussion (tracks 3 and 5)


  1. Thank you so much!


  3. What a cool lineup on this record! Looking forward to hearing it, this is not an album I paid attention to when it came out! Thanks!

    Hey....slight request.....just a couple of obvious rock requests: "Quadrophenia", and any of Hendrix's three classic studio albums, "Are You Experienced", "Axis Bold As Love" and "Electric Ladyland". I feel embarrassed requesting something so basic.....but I only have them in 320, once I stupidly sold my cd collection after I ripped them (but not ripping them as lossless!).

    Love your blog, I learn so much, find albums I've been looking for for years, or never heard of, or old favorites that I need to upgrade. THANK YOU!!!! :)

  4. Thanks for this, lost the cd years ago.

  5. THANKSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Beautiful..thanks a lot!!

    Stuffy from sweden