Michael Brecker Quindectet: Wide Angles

Michael Brecker Quindectet
Wide Angles

Many of you may be asking just how many people are in a quindectet. 12? 16? Actually, counting the musicians on the back of the album sleeve, it appears that a quindectet is 15. And from the opening notes of this jazz album, the 15 musicians all play an important if slightly unequal role. “Loxodrome” starts the 70-minute album out with Michael Brecker‘s playing leading the way behind Antonio Sanchez’s drumming and various other horn instruments. The groove is established early while the star is allowed to twist and turn musically. The song resembles early ’70s jazz and could be mistaken for a score to some ’70s action movie’s chase scene. Even the first song has so many subsections that it’s proof Brecker is one of the best in the business.

“Cool Day in Hell” is more orchestrated and brings his huge influence, John Coltrane, to mind instantly. The song itself doesn’t quite have the same bite as “Loxodrome”, and relies more on dramatics to communicate. Possessing a certain amount of flow, though, the tune has a certain murky quality, with tension building to its conclusion nearly eight minutes after its opening. “Angle of Repose” is a reflective piece with Sanchez’s brushing just moving the song along. The cello and violin of Erik Friedlander and Lois Martin, respectively, is this song’s selling point. John Patitucci’s standup bass (it resembles standup if not) is given a solo spot halfway through the song. At times it comes to a crawl, though, making it just a bit longer than it needs to be.

The album takes a lovable turn with the flighty “Timbuktu” — a primal yet intricate effort where Steve Wilson’s flute works its magic. The bounce in this number is also another selling point, resembling at times a rhythm and blues meets Latin conga arrangement. Brecker takes it out of this primal point exactly halfway in, giving it more of a jazz spin that becomes more intense. It’s also one of the finest performances Brecker gives on the record. “Night Jessamine” doesn’t quite cut it, though, with the funky bass line and quasi-wah wah guitar trying to blend with a structured string arrangement. A song that one knows might be a good idea, but should be left as such.

The centerpiece of the record comes in “Scylla”, a pensive and lengthy song that takes a while to get going. Recalling Dave Brubeck’s early work, Brecker works with the core of his band while letting the other members touch up certain areas. By the proverbial quarter pole, the band is in full swing, ebbing and flowing as the mood suits them. Although the album’s title might refer to the cinematic nature of the sound, at times it just seems a bit of overkill, especially on this track. Brecker competes here with the string section, making his performance a tad muddled. It becomes clearer as it evolves, but by then it unfortunately seems a bit too late.

The be-bop, head-bobbing quotient rears its infectious head on the beautiful “Brexterity”, a song that seems to fold upon itself time and time again without repeating itself. The ease with which Brecker incorporates the band is the greatest asset here. And it seems to say more in a shorter time than “Scylla”. The biggest surprise comes with “Modus Operandy”, a track that follows Brecker’s pattern until about a minute in, when things get really hazy. And extremely funky! It brings the Average White Band or even the Red Hot Chili Peppers to mind, if that’s conceivable. The calm and tranquil coda, “Never Alone”, is out of place here, but generally Brecker knows what works well on this record.